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Aphelion Editorial 065

December 2002

by Dan L. Hollifield


Hello and welcome!

I am reminded that the holidays are upon us in full measure by the sheer numbers of the crowds I see out shopping. There seems to be more good manners and real joy demonstrated by all I meet. I'm given to wonder if this is due to the trials and tribulations of the last two years, or is it a new, lasting thing that we may count on as we stride further into the 21st century?

The specter of war still looms large in the Middle East, as it has for the last ten thousand years or so. The threat of international terrorism has not diminished much, to my eyes anyway. What should be every nation's goal of establishing colonies in orbit, on the moon, and on Mars still appears to be grinding to a halt, instead of proceeding apace to reduce the population burden and increase the quality of life for every being on the planet. Vast wealth and resources await us in the asteroid belt, the planets, our moon, and even in naked space. And there also exists the possibility of preventing our extinction by nudging planet-killer asteroids away from a collision course with our fragile globe. But none of this is going to happen unless humanity stops trying to kill itself off and starts growing up. All this fighting over whom is going to control the kindergarten sandbox would be meaningless if we would just take the time to build more sandboxes! The sands of Mars are full of iron- Steel mills belching smoke into the air there would only serve to warm the place up a bit. Our moon is packed with useful ores, as are the asteroids. Space-based telescopes of every kind would only serve to increase our knowledge of the universe- With the added bonus of giving we groundlings warnings of dangerous asteroids far in advance of anything we can accomplish here on the surface. And manned exploration of space could turn our self-destructive energies to productive use as well as the reduction of population pressures afforded by establishing colonies elsewhere in the solar system.

But how are we going to get there? Not by demanding that we beat even more plowshares into swords, that's for sure. But there are research programs under way that are showing dividends. The Ion-drive engine, for one. NASA's NERVA nuclear rocket engine, for another. And thanks to the late Robert L. Forward, we have a workable design for at least one type of solar sail craft that could be built today. (And, I have been told that there is a company that is actually building a solar sail space probe right now.) But don't think that it would be easy or cheap. And better rockets are being designed even as we speak...

More questions I'd like an answer to would be "how can we budget more money for space if we have to worry about war and starvation here on Earth?" "How can we justify wasting money on space when it is needed more here on Earth?" "How can we get governments and corporations to quit dreaming of empire and allow us to get off this rock and, incidentally, further away from their control?" "What about the ethics of polluting and despoiling other worlds, after the mess we've made of Earth?" And lastly, the extremely stupid question "why should I/we worry about what will happen only after I/we are long dead?"

If you think I have any quick answers, you're going to be disappointed. I don't. I can only say that the future belongs to all of us, right now, as well as to the generations that will follow us. Moving whatever industries you personally hate off the planet can only help the environment. More research into fusion power plants and advanced propulsion systems will only serve to lighten the mind-numbing pressures that we now live under. Every advance in science has been opposed by whatever "powers-that-be" that have existed since the dawn of time. Hiding our collective heads in the proverbial sand will only kill us off that much quicker.

It is up to each of us as individuals to seek to change whatever we can. By mutual co-operation we can make a difference, we can change the world, we can see the dawn of a new age for ourselves and our posterity. We can insure that our children have a better future than we have made for ourselves, thus far. Or we can continue as we have in the past and drive ourselves into extinction.

As it has always been, the choice is up to each of you/us. To risk, to dare, to work towards making our dreams become reality- Or to die as a species, alone and whimpering, in the cold and darkness. What future do you choose?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled fiction...

Thanks for your time.

Dan

THE END


2002 Dan L. Hollifield

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