Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Are you, like me, a little miffed at billionaire space fantasies? Everyone watched over the weekend as Virgin’s Richard Branson shot himself into “space” in a test flight that has no positive potential for humankind (i.e., we all won’t be moving to Mars one day) and is really just R&D for a space tourism op. Virgin Galactic has collected lotsa cash from investors and is apparently spending billions of dollars to set up a rich man’s thrill ride.
Same with Bezos. His company, Blue Origin, will be selling “access to space.” He’s invested hundreds of millions of his own dollars (liquidating Amazon stock), and the company has spent more than a billion dollars a year, to develop reusable rockets that will “benefit Earth.” We’ll see about that. Meanwhile, space tourism.
And same with Elon Musk, whose Space X (so lame) is up to a similar mission. Ultimately heading for Mars, yada yada yada.
Imagine if these billions had been invested in clean energy. What if the space mavens had directed their considerable resources and imagination toward ensuring that Earth remains inhabitable for the foreseeable future? Instead of catering to the Flash Gordon wannabes, they might have pumped billions of dollars into research on fighting droughts, slowing and ending climate change, reducing the impact of wildfires, eliminating hunger, cleaning up the oceans, creating clean, efficient public transportation, and protecting democracy (and these come just off the top of my head). There are so many pressing contemporary problems that you don’t even need to use your imagination. Just pick from a grab bag.
I just watched the spectacular Summer of Soul, the Black concert series that was shot over several weekends in the summer of 1969 in Harlem, and in one segment many interviewees questioned the value of the Apollo mission, which had just put men on the moon. They, for the most part, resented the massive spending and didn’t see a benefit, as far as their own lives were concerned. It’s hard to argue with them, considering that the project was really an arm of the Cold War more than anything else. Certain advances in technology came of it, but most people suggest “benefits” that seem on the esoteric side, like “We got to see Spaceship Earth from 250,000 miles away.”
This is why billionaires throwing money into space tourism strikes so many people as a tragic waste. Sure, from the moon shot we got some products like plastic sneakers and dust busters and fire-retardant textiles (says at least one NASA engineer), but what if we put trillions into sustaining and improving life on Earth instead? I could do without Tang* if I knew millions of human beings could have clean water and freedom from poverty and easily cured diseases.
But that’s just me. Anybody want to help me see the awesomeness of Jeff Bezos shooting other billionaires into space?
*Does Tang even still exist?