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It’s dangerous to think humans have a destiny outside Earth (techeffect.substack.com)
159 points by orenweisfeld 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 306 comments



This is frankly a blatantly wrong and quite foolish argument. Space exploration has already created many significant benefits for humanity on Earth, by advancing hundreds of new technologies with terrestrial applications and launching satellite networks that support a safer, more peaceful world for humans, with improved agricultural efficiencies as well as advanced warning and a better understanding of extreme weather events and climate trends.

Also, spending on space continues to be and has been a very small expense, not only smaller than cosmetics, but entirely dwarfed by military spending and welfare, both of which are highly contested as to whether they provide net benefit at all to the people of Earth.

You'd have to be ideologically possessed or completely ignorant of reality to believe this anti-space bs.

> American citizens need to decide what they prioritize. Is it space exploration or is it a decent standard of living at home? Is it the moon, Mars, or Earth?

No they don't.

We can prioritize both, and frankly, life on Earth will be better the more we priotitize space exploration, not worse.


I think it is important to understand differences:

The future of humanity is not only on earth. Too much risk, too limited resources.

HOWEVER the future of humanity in space is NOT "tomorrow we lift off a giant spaceship with everyone on it." If we survive a few hundred years we might see some amount of human civilization outside of earth, but for many hundreds of years after more practical space tech comes about most of humanity will still be born, live, and die on earth.

Maybe in a thousand years we'll see more humans outside of earth than on earth. But that's a long long long ways from now. If we are to become an "immortal" race (doesn't go extinct) then I can see the human race abandoning earth in a hundred thousand years or so due to many possible conditions. But even if we can colonize and terraform other planets, why would we want to when we already have a perfectly terraformed planet we're already on. Life has survived on earth farily well for billions of years, there's no reason why if we don't completely obliterate the climate we can't survive here till the sun blows up.


>The future of humanity is not only on earth.

Where are you going to go?

Outside of Earth, there is no place for us in the entire Solar System. Sure we may build some research stations here and there, just as we did in inhospitable places on Earth (like Antarctica), but there's no long-term option anywhere. Interstellar travel is science fiction, but even if it wasn't, there is no place for us to go as well.


You make the place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O%27Neill_cylinder

Obviously this is far beyond our current level of technology, though.


It's absolutely not beyond our current level of technology. Unfortunately, there are not economic incentives yet.

Now, this(1) it's beyond our current level, but one can dream.

It's obvious to me that this is the most probable future and I would not be surprise if, at some point, most humanity is living in this kind of environment instead of planets.

Planets have a lot of disadvantages.

(1) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_Ring_(habitat)


I think it might be better to say that's not beyond our current level of scientific understanding (it doesn't require any exotic materials or new physics). However it's likely beyond our practical engineering capabilities.

Early spaceflight up through Apollo was done with an army of humans with slide rules and rivet guns. We did it because there was a political imperative to do so. A lot of new technology was developed as a result. But it ended up being unsustainable because it was too expensive.

I think the key to making O'Neill cylinders feasible will be large scale outer space resource mining and in-space manufacturing. Both will require advanced robotics and AI. We could throw a bunch of money into developing that ... or we could just wait for the technology to develop here on Earth and then apply it to space.

Likewise, as much as I'd like to see a Mars outpost in my lifetime, it would be a lot cheaper and safer if we didn't rush it. Maybe by 2075 we'll have cured cancer and radiation won't be an issue, and we'll have self-repairing life support systems and one of those automated medical pods from the Alien movies.


There can't be an economic incentive, only political ones.

Much like pilgrims who founded Massachusetts, founders of space habitats will be groups of people who don't enjoy living on Earth badly enough (due to persecution, or because of desire of some grand reforms) to fund a move elsewhere.

I bet the first Martian colony will quickly be recognized as a place not controllable by any Earth government, and that will be a huge selling point for tickets to Mars.


I would imagine that any colony would be dependent on Earth (for survival) for quite a while. I think that it would take a certain level of self-sufficiency in order to reach a point of not being controllable by earth.

Being far away is one thing, but when I look at how powers on Earth exert influence and control over others, it seems you also need to be self-sufficient (protection from blockades, trade embargoes, or other modern "seiges"), and also sufficiently defended/defensible to avoid military threats. Sure, your Martian buildings may be underground, but would they be safe from heavy objects flung at them at high velocity? Seems like it would be easy enough for Earth to "put down" any Martian activities that rubbed people the wrong way for the foreseeable future.


Maybe that will be MAD for the 23rd century - you blow up our habitats, we'll drop rocks on your cities.


It may be a bit more like the Triangle Trades of old [0].

Raw/rare materials and elements are mined in the Belt and are then sent to Earth for use in manufacture. You pick up the high quality goods and tools from Earth and ship them to Mars/Moon. Since there is water on Mars/Moon, you grow food, 'wet' supplies, and unfinished goods in the weaker gravity well for shipment to the Belt. These arrive in the Belt and you repeat the process, profiting at every spaceport.

As the metropole has overwhelming manpower/firepower due to it's high class manufacturing base and population, the threat of violence is just plain bad for business all around and is discouraged.

Now I'm gong to speculate very hard: Eventually, the lesser manufacturing base (Moon/Mars) will gain in economic and political power as their frontier life becomes more civilized and independent of the metropole. And they may try to declare independence fully. However, in the case of Moon/Mars, you're looking at a fully independent multi-generational extraterrestrial biospheres at that point and probably millions of people, if not 10s of millions, to run the whole thing. Lots of people that have never been to Earth and never plan on going. I really don't see that much trade/mining would be needed to go to Earth to build up and support permanently independent biospheres of a few generations of native Martians/Moonies.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_trade


There are no known commodity items that can be profitably mined in space.[0]

There will almost certainly be stuff like gold and rare metals shipped from a Mars colony to Earth, but only because returning the ships from Mars makes vital resupply easier. From a total system perspective it'd be better to keep the ship on Mars and scavenge it, but Mars will be on such an economic imbalance that they will want to make it easy as possible for Earth to resupply them. And if you're going to return the ships anyways, you might as well put something in them.

The diagram at the top of [1] is a good illustration of import vs make in situ vs export.

[0] https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/there-are-no-k...

[1] https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2020/08/23/progression-of...


There are hundreds of asteroids that have more wealth than the entire US federal debt.

Consider all the precious metals ever mined on the planet. Now consider this is litterally scratching the surface of the total contained within the planet. Note, these dense metals will be concentrated toward the planets core, due to gravity.

The asteroid belt easily holds our planet's mass, but it is all spread thinly and relatively easy to access.


> The asteroid belt easily holds our planet's mass

That seems...quite high:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_belt

"The total mass of the asteroid belt is approximately 4% that of the Moon."


I don't think the mass is as important as accessible mass - let's say you can mine up to 4 km deep (the deepest mine on Earth at the moment) & you can't easily do that any, there might be ocean, glacier, or even a city on top of the resource you want to mine. That limits you even further for terrestrial mining.

Asteroid on the other hand are mostly just a few kilometers in size with a very few being bigger than tens of kilometers. That might quite possibly open much bigger mining volume than what's currently avalable on earth - rather than a big sphere with much stuff inaccessible due to being too deep, you now have millions of chunks floating around with a lot of stuff to dig through in the 4 km limit. No oceans, cities or glaciers to block you as well.

And the arbitrary 4 km limit most likely does not really apply for asteroids - they are all long cooled down & the gravity is negligible so nothing should really limmmit you from digging hundreds of kilometers through Vesta looking for valuables. Also some findings indicate that processes that lead to dilution of minerals on earth might have taken place after asteroids formed, so it might be possible to find the stuff we look for in quite a pure and ready to use state.


Imagine that you deliver 100 thousand tons of gold, platinum, etc to Earth. How would the prices change?

Inside the asteroid belt there's nobody to trade in gold with, at least not yet.


Well, it should enable many things that are currently prohibitively expensive due to the cost of materials.

You know, people don't buy stuff (just) because it looks nice and shiny but to use to to do things. Aluminium used to be more expensive than platinum yet we survived it's price tanking & it made practical airplanes and drink cans possible!


There's still the minor detail of transporting it back to Earth in a cost effective way…


Ideally you would use it for building up space infrastructure primarily. You might still ship some finished products back to Earth, that would be much more mass efficient.

BTW, once you can have your payload trajectory intersect with Earth, you will get braking for free thanks to the atmosphere, effectively shaving half of the needed delta-v. Same thing on Mars.


Has anyone demonstrated manufacturing non-trivial centrifuges in space yet? Or mining and refining in space, given we can’t possibly afford to launch that much mass from the ground? Or fully modelled the lifecycle of that sort of megastructure to find out how, why, and when the chemistry of the occupants/internal farms/etc. causes fatal problems?

I’m eager to live in one of these, but I don’t think we actually know enough to build one at all yet, never mind safely.


There is a FDM 3D printer on the ISS & there have been many material science experiments done. A centrifuge module was planned for the ISS but later cut on cost reasons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrifuge_Accommodations_Modu...

Humble beginnings.


Yeah - I'm a bit alarmed on how many people can't think out of the blue ball (sorry for the pun) - there are many many ways we can build our own environments as needed about anywhere in space given some resources and energy.

Also while Earth is pretty ideal, it is not perfect - for example some places in Japan can be regularly hit by earthquakes, tsunami, flooding, Typhoons and even volcanic eruptions!

If done right, habitats could be much better than planetary environments.


We can change Mars in large ways. Lots of stuff written about that. Heck, we could redirect an icy asteroid to collide, providing water, atmosphere and heat. On the order of decades from now.


>We can change Mars in large ways.

No we can't. The gravity of Mars is always going to be a problem. The lack of magnetic field is always going to be a problem. Most of its atmosphere was lost to space and there is not enough water on the planet to replenish.

>we could redirect an icy asteroid to collide, providing water, atmosphere and heat.

I read the Mars trilogy too.

>On the order of decades from now.

Sure.


>>We can change Mars in large ways.

>No we can't. The gravity of Mars is always going to be a >problem. The lack of magnetic field is always going to be a >problem. Most of its atmosphere was lost to space and there >is not enough water on the planet to replenish.

Nothing a world house could not fix:

https://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/51f7d32f54b72

Bonus point - it can be built incrementally, so you get immediate results instead of waiting for generations of effort to get anything back as with planet wide terraforming!


Blood pressure, bone growth are managed by genetics. Which we (will) have control over soon. So that's hardly a stumbling block.


It took tens to hundreds of millions years for the atmosphere to disappear. If we can make a new one, we ca. Keep it replenished


We could make an artificial magnetic field for it. Beyond current technology but seems like a viable option a hundred years from now.

I agree low gravity would be a problem, but life finds a way, right? Current generations of humans wouldn’t do well in 1/4 G, but maybe we’ll see significant adaptations 100 generations down the line! Who knows?


> We could make an artificial magnetic field for it. Beyond current technology but seems like a viable option a hundred years from now.

How? Because to me, that seems extremely far-fetched. My understanding as to why Earth has a magnetic field and why Mars does not (or has a weak one) is that Earth has a highly dynamic molten core surrounding a solid inner core, whereas Mars only has a molten core with not as much activity. It is my understanding that Earth's geodynamo plus its rotation helps create the magnetic field that protects our atmosphere.

So unless humans are able to alter planets in such...planetary ways, then I don't see how we'll suddenly be able to give Mars a sustainable magnetic field.


Literally google it, come on. "Mars artificial magnetic field." We'll wait.


No need to be so snappy.

And that isn't giving Mars a magnetic field in the implied sense. It's building an external structure to perform a protective field that would have similar effects. You may consider it semantics, but they're different.

It is an interesting idea, but this seems to simply be a proposal with a lot of "ifs" and "mights" and "possibles", with even the proposer calling it "fanciful". So indeed, I suppose we will wait. Even with this novel idea, it doesn't seem possible in 100 years. The articles I see came out three years ago from the conference it was presented at, and I didn't see any immediate results returned as to the progress of the idea.


In principle, the cities themselves could have angled bases and be spinning, adding mass-gravity to centrifugal-gravity. I’m not sure if this is actually a good idea (and why would you want to build on a planet if you’re going to live in spin gravity?) but in principle it can be done.


Agree with you but keep in mind we can also change humans to be better suited to the environment there. So in the long term we can work both sides of the problem.


Human climate management shouldn't give anyone hope.


We've demonstrated that we can heat planets up.


Unfortunately what we’ve demonstrated is that we make bad decisions if they’re cheap; that we have heated up the plant is merely because it happened to be the case that fossil fuels could power a population growth from 1 to 8 billion in a century and a half.

The tech is available, it’s the politics that I doubt.


The politics of terraforming a barren plant to make more suitable for colonization is going to be different from that of our home world.


Of course. My concern is: will the politics remain aligned in the long term with keeping it habitable after it’s been terraformed?


Right. That was modded down, but it's realistic. All the off-earth real estate in the solar system is inhabitable only at huge cost. Mars barely has an atmosphere.


What do you think would prevent a self sufficient colony on Mars in a few hundred years? I don't see any fundamental obstacles to it.


Self sufficient requires a manufacturing base to include everything needed to sustain it’s self, including redundancies. Going from zero humans on mars to 100’s of millions is a massive bootstrap problem with minimal incentive for the the people involved or the multiple years worth of earth’s GDP to get to that point.

It’s like the “self replicating” 3D printers where they can produce 98% of the structure by weight and approximately 0.001% by complexity. A base that’s producing it’s own food is doable, shipping machines to say build solar panels or a specific chip isn’t a problem.

However, even just the effort to figure out a minimal slice of earth’s technology to be self significant is hard. Aka building even a single type of LCD requires a massive number of different components, and the ability to build all the machines to make those components, and machines to make those machines, ... Now realize that’s just for an LCD, manufacturing every type of Medicine is a whole other list.

Finally you need to accept everyone on Mars living in relative poverty for generations due to the inefficiencies involved.


> [Y]ou need to accept [that] everyone on Mars [will] live in relative poverty for generations.

I think this point is by far the easiest one to address. Historically, there have always been people willing to do dangerous things (ie exploring the Arctic / Antarctica). I don't think you'd have any trouble finding people willing to give up their Earth lifestyle for a chance to explore the "frontier" even with the knowledge that they couldn't come back.


Those explorers always have the luxury of going back to civilisation after relatively short excursions into the unknown.

I doubt many people are willing to live the entirety of their lives in constant danger and constrained resources. And even fewer of those people will have the skills needed to run a complex technological society (and you will need a lot of technology to survive on Mars).


>Those explorers always have the luxury of going back to civilisation after relatively short excursions into the unknown. I doubt many people are willing to live the entirety of their lives in constant danger and constrained resources.

Yet a very large majority of North America is descended from people who did exactly that.


The very large majority comes from people who settled way after the early colonists.

And those, who settled, came here looking for a better life, which should tell you about the conditions they were coming from.

And that is especially true for the many of the early colonists.

But the most important thing: we no longer live in the 1500-1600s which is a very important factor overlooked by everyone breathlessly talking about enduring hardships on Mars


Colonists to the new world of the Americas didn't count on going back.


There was a constant string of boats going back to England and many people did so. What kept people in the America’s was they where better off there than Europe not the inability to leave.


I agree with you that complexity is a thing and not quite a simple hurdle but once the gears start turning I believe we have enough smart people among humanity as a whole to figure something out.

I also think you take the idea of poverty way too seriously. People adapt to their environment remarkably quickly and the idea of poverty and wealth with it.


Modern automated production techniques and additive manufacturing can help reduce this dependency a lot. You can also do some compromises - the stuff might be less elegant than cutting-edge Earth product, but it will work.

Also people now have much better mental picture of the manufacturing tech tree than ever before thanks to Factorio. ;-)


you're moving the goalpost from self sufficient to 100 millions humans, and the two are very lightly correlated.

beside, earth manufacturing is biased toward efficiency and low cost, with the driver of capital gain, not sustainability, you don't actually need lcd if crt are good enough and could be manufactured in situ.

sure it won't make for a good nor a pleasant standard of living, but then again, that's moving the goalpost.


If the standard of living is bad enough people will simply fail to immigrate. You need not just young men seeking adventure, but educated and talented people willing to have a family there across long timeframes as infrastructure is slowly built up.

The US for example is below replacement rate, which is fine if you has constant immigration or it’s going to increase as the population falls. Less so if having 10% fewer people means everyone else dies.

Technology is only half the battle you also need to avoid negative feedback loops where if conditions are bad enough you don’t get doctors and surgeons immigrants. Which then makes things worse. A few year shift is fine for a token settlement, less so if you’re shipping 100,000 people there and 100,000 people back every year.


Why does it need hundreds of millions of people?


Elon's estimate is that 1 million people are needed for Mars to industrialize sufficiently to become self-sufficient.

A good reference is Casey Handmer's blog or book.

https://www.amazon.com/How-Industrialize-Mars-Strategy-Self-...

https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2020/08/23/progression-of...


1 million in a few centuries seems feasible given the likely advances in technology. Hundreds of millions would require terraforming, which will likely take millennia. But those timescales are relatively short if human civilization persists. Even if Mars does not end up being ideal enough, Venus could be on a longer time scale. The article is short sighted.


That’s not a requirement, that’s the goal. In theory you could have a self sufficient base with 0 people and AI, or 100,000+ people for long term genetic diversity and an automated wonderland, or ...


> why would we want to when we already have a perfectly terraformed planet we're already on

Sure, you can stay here. But then in a few thousand years the descendants of the people who did leave turn up with advanced weapons and ideas about bringing you the “benefits of civilisation”.


Came here to say this - this has been the difficulty with things like science and research since the dawn of time... you study one thing and then hopefully if you have a lot of people studying multiple things one hugely amazing thing eventually falls out when one person gets lucky.

It leads to a very delayed gratification despite very real near term costs. So it’s easy to attack the costs and focus and prioritization...

But if you don’t invest in science as a whole, eventually you start running out of new things that improve life generally.

Space exploration is one of those areas where we learn and continuously bring back learnings to the rest of society.


It's also a tool to pacify people with empty promises of a better future. The way that it's being used as a distant future utopia is like the way promises of Heaven are used in Abrahamic religions to convince people to suffer in the here and now.

A lot of people would choose to suffer some now in order to go to some peaceful space colony where they don't have to live with any of the consequences for our biosphere. They'll just get to go live in a different one. The reality is that if we continue to ignore the very real problems on our planet we won't ever see the day that we're living on other planets.

It doesn't matter that there are real, quantifiable benefits to space exploration. Most people who believe it's important don't know anything about those benefits, and they don't think it's important because of that. It's all about the promise of a "heaven" in the sky in which they won't have to struggle anymore.


We could "spin" the anti-space side as a religion too I suppose. It involves a bit more ascetism and self-flagellation though.

I already live in a "heavenly" future compared to most of my ancestors.

I have hot and cold running water. My waste is whisked away. I can travel far and harness powerful energies with the flick of a switch. I can summon almost any food or item imaginable to my doorstep. I can open a portal to anywhere and speak with people there. There are still mysteries however, and the human body is rich with them.

There is a growing sense that using our powers comes at a terrible cost.

Many feel that the only solution is to abstain, although some factions believe that we can "purify" our technology.

Because the problem, filtered through the human psyche, is seen as a moral one. That it's _wrong_ for so many things to be too easy. Ten dollars shoes, drive-thru fast food and plastic bags must be evil because anyone can see it's absurd that these things are even possible.

Naturally, developing new powers (such as space exploration) would come with more terrible costs, and this must be stopped until we address our sins here on earth.


Let’s address this theology you’ve just created that you propose/project others believe. It would be more persuasive if you presented an “anti-space” (?) actually expressing this argument. Otherwise it could just be a fantasy you’ve concocted in your head...

A counter argument to your theology: I personally know of no one who has proposed banning space exploration. Banning space travel would follow your created theology, since banning is what morality normally does.

A more widely held theology might be that “anti-space” believes that human space exploration is a cowardly, and not a heroic, endeavor. One person’s exploration is another person’s escape. That is off-message for selling space tourism and tchotchkes, so there could be some pushback from those with “skin in the game”.

And it shows some unintended disrespect for those who gave their lives during early space missions.

PS: In fact, I know of nobody who, now and then, hasn’t wanted more human space travel.

They just want to choose who gets sent and whether they are permitted to come back alive. Two birds, one stone...


> We could "spin" the anti-space side as a religion too I suppose. It involves a bit more ascetism and self-flagellation though.

And a heavy dose of fatalism.


Why is it "either, or"? Tackle both problems. For climate change, space tech is invaluable - we already have the ability to build a solar shade in orbit, it's just extremely expensive. With better space technologies, the cost will go down massively.

The bigger problem is that there's no political will. It will have to be an effort by all countries.


Move polluting heavy industry and manufacturing off planet, There are uncounted resources in the asteroid belt and 24/7 solar energy.


Calling it a utopia is straw manning the arguments for expanding beyond Earth and continuing to explore the universe. Why should we stop doing something fundamental to life in the promise that this time we’ll fix all our problems if governments just funnel all their money that way? Why would anyone think NASA’s budget would actually be used any better elsewhere by politicians?


Agreed!


> Space exploration has already created many significant benefits for humanity on Earth, by advancing hundreds of new technologies with terrestrial applications and launching satellite networks

I don't think this is a strong supporting argument because it applies to any major technological development. Anytime you invest people, billions of dollars, etc. into major technological goals, you're going to get advances and spinoffs that have broader applications. Space exploration is already basically a spinoff of military projects, goals, and investing, just like a huge amount of existing and future technology.

> that support a safer, more peaceful world for humans, with improved agricultural efficiencies as well as advanced warning and a better understanding of extreme weather events and climate trends

A citation would be very helpful there in terms of creating a more peaceful world for humans, as I do not think it's so cut and dry. Further, one could argue that exploring the oceans instead of space would be far more beneficial to understanding life, climate, ecosystems, etc. and would have just as much if not more technological spinoffs as sending man to the Moon or Mars.

My personal viewpoint on space exploration is to currently concentrate on drones and robots being sent out to space and to turn the money that would otherwise be invested into manned missions towards understanding the ocean and Earth itself. It's difficult to imagine a more perfect place for sustainable life than Earth, and yet we are not sustaining. That is a big gap and a big goal for humans: sustain life on Earth in a healthy way. If we can't do that on Earth, then I truly do not understand how we'll do it anywhere else.


life on earth or human life? because life is just fine. All we are doing is restoring the atmosphere changed by a devastating asteroid impact. An atmosphere that plunges the earth into ice for 10s if not 100s of thousands of years periodically. If we kept pumping out CO2 at present acceleration, it would take us 500 years to reach the levels preimpact. We wont get there, we will likely run out or find other alternatives, but that time frame puts things into perspective.


> This is frankly a blatantly wrong and quite foolish argument.

I like to remember that these types of flawed arguments are the best at getting viewership up and ads viewed.


> We can prioritize both, and frankly, life on Earth will be better the more we priotitize space exploration, not worse.

Why not to start to invest into research and technologies allowing us to terraform planets? We have a climate catastrophe in a near future, why no to try something to do. Like to grow forest over Sahara, I mean no just Egypt trying to do it in a small scale, but as a multinational project, with tons of invested resources? It could allow to try technologies, to learn economics of such projects, to check climate models and so on.

Or maybe there are better ideas than turning Sahara into a rain forest? What they are? Should we try them maybe?


Absolutely. Learning to live in the constraints of space help up learn to do everything with less on Earth.


I agree we need both. I still think it is many many magnitudes harder for us to get to Mars or build a sustained presence on the Moon than to solve some of the energy or other problems we have on Earth. We have almost endless resources here but (largely) politically we aren't interested in solving them. I'm all for exploration and learning. The question is about the goal. Is our goal to learn about the Moon and our solar system or to have a significant human settlement (not involved in research) on the Moon? I'm pro-space and pro-exploration but not pro "we've killed the Earth but we'll do better on Mars".


> You'd have to be ideologically possessed or completely ignorant of reality to believe this anti-space bs.

I think you have just offered a good reason why homo sapiens is a threat to other worlds. (o:


> provide net benefit at all to the people of Earth.

Are you saying there might be an overall net benefit, but not a net benefit to everyone individually? I'm fine with extra support for the disabled even if everyone else doesn't necessarily get an individual net benefit from it. Everything doesn't need to be pareto optimal, it is just a no brainier when it is.


Hi John, Thanks for your comment. I tried to specify that I was talking about space exploration for the purposes of finding life/inhabiting planets. This is the thing I dont think we should be spending resources on.


Hey Oren,

I appreciate your civil clarification, however, I still honestly don't see a reasonable path to your view.

If we find extraterrestrial life, this poses perhaps the greatest opportunity we've ever had to learn more about the limits and fundamentals of life on Earth, as we will finally have a sample size of more than one rise of life in multiple environments.

If we learn to inhabit other planets or moons, this requires perhaps the greatest project in engineering across many specializations ever attempted, constraining us to stricter boundaries than we face on Earth, and thereby inevitably teaching us a lot more about improving life on Earth.

If you can play football against the pros, you can definitely play it against amateurs. Training in the NFL doesn't take away from your ability to play at home, it improves it.


> You'd have to be ideologically possessed or completely ignorant of reality to believe this anti-space bs.

I don’t think asking a government to get it’s priorities straight is “anti-space bs”. I’m not from the US, but I too would be mad if I saw the gov talk about man in the Moon/Mars while I don’t have healthcare and the country is on fire.


A sufficiently large country is always on fire, somewhere :p


Space exploration has already created many significant benefits for humanity on Earth, by advancing hundreds of new technologies with terrestrial applications

Velcro! Tang! Teflon! Computers! NASA PR used to make a big thing of that. But those things didn't come from NASA's space program.

The ISS was a huge disappointment. It's the best argument for not putting people in space. Hugely expensive, and not very useful.


Literally every new car sold today uses plasma coatings to extend the lifetime of the rotating assembly and efficiency of the combustion facing components. Every commercial airliner turbine uses this technology, not to mention GPS, communication and weather satellites...

https://spinoff.nasa.gov/spinoff2000/ip9.htm

https://spinoff.nasa.gov Yeah, that was another NASA spi


Plasma coat spraying predates the space era, though it was rapidly refined in the 1950s for aerospace use.


That's like sailing on the ocean to the point where you can't see land and calling it the best argument for not exploring any further...


> We can prioritize both, and frankly, life on Earth will be better the more we priotitize space exploration, not worse.

This is a pretty baseless claim. Space exploration, within the next 50 years, will yield utterly nothing for humans on earth. We want to colonize Mars or the Moon? Great, but what for?

You know how much all these things cost? Trillions per large economy. With that money you can do quite a lot to increase our life here on earth. What we need right now is not space exploration, we need tech to combat climate change and to combat the general destruction of ecosystems on this planet.

Like it or not. The earth is not an eternal resting place for humans, but we are not going to leave it anytime soon either. So for the next 100 years we need to keep this thing going at the very least. 100 years, at the current levels of destruction (which is as it looks like only going to increase) is going to be tough. Space is not where to look, we don't have the tech to colonize space and we are not gonna get it fast enough to just abandon earth right now.


I like Jeff Bezos' idea very much. Earth is so nice, but we are facing climate change, energy problem and pollutions. Why not shift factories, mine energy and other resources from other planet, and we can live on earth without damaging it too quickly. It sounds a lot better than moving people to other planets.


> What we need

Who’s we?

Global collective decision making seems to be less likely to happen in the next century than having people on Mars.


> Indeed, the idea that technological developments will solve all of our problems —eventually allowing us to leave Earth — is instrumental to political mobilization on behalf of the powers that be. It helps to perpetuate the current socio-economic system that is designed for the one percent to stay in power and the working class to stay working.

Sorry to say, but almost EVERYTHING big that happens on this planet helps to perpetuate the current socio-economic system that is designed for the one percent to stay in power and the working class to stay working.

> After all, it’s easier to sell American citizens on space exploration — and the $22.6 billion dollar budget afforded to NASA in 2020 alone — when there is a promise of a future utopia.

What future utopia? They're selling Americans on future American prestige in the world, during an election cycle. You're reading far too much into this.

> American citizens need to decide what they prioritize. Is it space exploration or is it a decent standard of living at home? Is it the moon, Mars, or Earth?

All three. They have the capability, just not the equality.


"Easier to sell American citizens... the $22.6 billion dollar budget"

That's hilarious. $23 billion is nothing. You can add to that all the other countries' budgets and all private investments, it's still nothing.

More money is spent on recreating the same consumer products every year, creating brain numbing entertainment, creating military equipment that will be retired before it's used, disseminating misinformation around the globe, keeping people in prisons.

The space exploration budgets are tiny, all around the world. Same goes for money allocated for climate change.


I agree that they made some big leaps when turning this into a narrative, but I think there's truth to the basic premise that focusing too much on a hypothetical future amongst the stars - which at best would be harsh, difficult, and miserable - serves as a distraction against the very real and very urgent and very solvable problems facing our species and habitat as it exists right now.

Even if we managed interstellar travel (and that's a big if), it's highly unlikely we would ever find anything remotely as good as Earth, when it comes to being tuned precisely for our human needs. Evolution has geared us for this world. We might be able to cobble together a survival elsewhere, but I doubt we could ever thrive.

Beyond that: space exploration and research obviously still has value. It's just that it's a very long-term and theoretical value, and at this particular moment in history there are much more pressing concerns.


> Evolution has geared us for this world. We might be able to cobble together a survival elsewhere, but I doubt we could ever thrive.

People on Earth thrived in the Arctic, which is incredibly far from the savannas of Africa, and did this with the technology of 10,000 years ago. Saying that people with the technology of 1000 years from now can't possibly thrive on an airless rock is a little pessimistic to me.

And that's ignoring space habitats, which would plausibly be better tuned to our human needs than Earth is.


This is perhaps getting a bit pedantic, but the development of Arctic civilizations (and specifically arctic climate here, not subarctic) seems to actually be more around the third millennium BC, or 4-5kya rather than 10kya.

It's also worth pointing out that Arctic peoples adapted to their environment largely by utilizing the capabilities of existing fauna (e.g., hunting existing apex predators, or using reindeer furs to keep warm). And when non-Arctic peoples tried their hands in the region without similar adaptations, the result tended to be "everyone dies," as in the Shackleton and Franklin expeditions.

Note that there are places on Earth we haven't been able to successfully inhabit. For example, somewhere around 17,000 feet appears to be the maximum possible altitude for permanent human habitation.


Certainly the subarctic was populated well-before 10kya[0], but I was under the impression that the true arctic saw long-term inhabitants before the Paleo-Inuit[1], with the Paleo-Arctic tradition around 10-7kya[2]. But looking now, its not clear to me if they were far enough north to count.

[0] https://www.researchgate.net/project/Late-Pleistocene-Archae...

[1] Who arrived in the Arctic circle around 4-5kya (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Eskimo)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Arctic_Tradition


> People on Earth thrived in the Arctic

Can you define "thrive"?

Because according to my definitions, I wouldn't "thrive" if I lived there - I would actually "cobble together a survival" like the parent wrote, and think I'm not in a minority that thinks so.


Wouldn't it be the standards of the people that lived there that mattered? I'd certainly die if placed in such a situation, but cultural knowledge is a technology too.


Thrive: Exist over many generations developing unique and rich culture and society.



Well, they thrived enough to pose a serious challenge to Vikings in Greenland - and might have been a big part of their eventual downfall there.


Those people still had free access to water, oxygen, sunlight that would warm and illuminate but not incinerate, Earth-strength gravity, shielding from astral radiation, a self-sustaining ecology of animals and microbes, self-circulating air replenished and cross-pollenated from other parts of the globe. I would even argue that psychological foundations like a horizon, and a sky above, and space that one can roam with one's own two feet, are essential to human thriving.

There are so many things we take for granted that probably don't exist, exactly this way, anywhere else in the universe.

We could probably satisfy our basic survival needs on a planet like Mars. We could make water, and nutrients, and oxygen, and shield ourselves from radiation. But it would mean living inside a box, possibly underground, forever, in constant precarity because if our artificial biomes ever have problems, we're out of luck. We can't fall back to nature; there is no nature. The world outside doesn't have a life of its own, it's fully dead. Even the very most optimistic version of this scenario is a bleak shadow of the life that can be lived on Earth.


> Evolution has geared us for this world. We might be able to cobble together a survival elsewhere, but I doubt we could ever thrive.

"Nothing human makes it out of the near future."


> It's just that it's a very long-term and theoretical value, and at this particular moment in history there are much more pressing concerns.

Like blowing up people living in mud huts in deserts going by US economic priorities. A regime largely in place to protect biased trade relations for cheap materials and goods from around the world and more importantly (to those orchestrating the regime) to the line the pockets of select defense contractors.

Investments in space represent, what, .1% of the US GDP? Astoundingly the single mother raising her kid in food scarcity in <insert dystopic cityscape here> actually probably really doesn't give a hoot about terraforming in 2500, but would really give a damn about having healthcare and avoiding societal collapse from climate catastrophe in her lifetime.

A lot of unreasonably rich people are unreasonably obsessed with space, but thats largely because they are sociopaths. Thats how they got rich in the first place, or were born to such extreme luxury they are psychologically impaired to be unable to relate to anyone outside their class meaningfully. So they go full scifi because they don't think the world we have with all its problems not so easily solved by throwing money at them (that isn't for their own immediate personal gain) is worth it.


> Like blowing up people living in mud huts in deserts going by US economic priorities. A regime largely in place to protect biased trade relations for cheap materials and goods from around the world and more importantly (to those orchestrating the regime) to the line the pockets of select defense contractors.

Haha. How on earth did they convince US citizens that indeed sending highly trained soldiers each worth their weight in gold to fight a war of attrition in the desert against sons of goat farmers?

At what point did everyone agree and say "this is a brilliant idea Mon general!" and proceed to send their sons to die in the desert?


>>A lot of unreasonably rich people are unreasonably obsessed with space, but thats largely because they are sociopaths. Thats how they got rich in the first place, or were born to such extreme luxury they are psychologically impaired to be unable to relate to anyone outside their class meaningfully. So they go full scifi because they don't think the world we have with all its problems not so easily solved by throwing money at them (that isn't for their own immediate personal gain) is worth it.

Or they think that expanding the amount of clean energy available to humanity a million fold - which a significant space economy would make possible - would do more to elevate the quality of life humanity enjoys than any other endeavor.

This hyper-cynical outlook, where you assume a focus on pushing the technological boundaries to make more of the universe accessible to humanity is motivated by sociopathic priorities, is toxic and totally inconsiderate of the goodwilled individuals it maligns.


Yeah, I have never been sold some future utopia here. There are plenty of reasons to fund NASA, and that is not one that is on me mind. Its $22.6B budges is a small fraction of the US total budget. Something like 0.5%. There are much larger portions of the budget that should be addressed first. I think we can prioritize things like space exploration and higher standard of living at the same time. They are not at all mutually exclusive.


22B / 4,800B in spend = about 0.5%. math checks out. Hard to argue we are prioritizing space that much.


This is a restatement of the "we shouldn't do anything in Space until we solve (all/most/the most important) problems on Earth" argument.

If our ancestors would have used this they'd never would have, say, colonized the Americas, or even left Africa. Because there's always something broken at home. Has there been a single moment in history that would have satisfied that argument ?


There were people living in the Americas before your ancestors arrived there.


Not the OP, but I suppose one can read their comment as referring to the original colonizers who crossed the Bering strait, not those who crossed the Atlantic.


You can read as what you want, when people arrived to the Americas, the continents were covered in lush vegetation and had plenty of water, food and space.

When we'll arrive to the only planet in reach where it is even vaguely conceivable to survive for more than a couple of hours, we'll find a freezing desert with high radiation levels and no air where every cubic centimetre of living space will need to be created from scratch and maintained.


Not only that, but Mars is smaller than the Earth. Even best case for teraforming all of it into paradise and shipping half the world's population there gives ~one more population doubling time to being "full" again. Planets are not an efficient way to make surface living space with all that matter inside them.

Whatever you think of the difficulty or possibility of it, it will be easier to work out how to support 2x or 5x the current human population on Earth, compared to the effort and difficulty involved in supporting 0.001x the population (~8 million people) on Mars.


Mars is the size (surface) of the Pacific Ocean. And infinitely less habitable than the Pacific. We could settle a few billion people in entirely self-sufficient and zero-impact communities floating on the Pacific and it would be absolutely cheap and straightforward compared to doing the same on Mars.


Yet it will take only a single asteroid, massive volcanic eruption, or giant H-bomb explosion to render the planet inhospitable to all those billions of people.

The risk of staying on a single planet is crazy.


Not all of them. Nuclear fallout shelters exist. A Mars base is like that, but it needs flying to Mars and landing from orbit and constructing in a spacesuit with almost no local materials and no supply chain and few people, and you can't come back when the dust settles, and that makes it orders of magnitude more expensive and difficult.

> The risk of staying on a single planet is crazy.

Unless you plan to clone yourself, you are staying on a single planet whatever happens. If you think disaster is coming any time soon, you'd save more people trying to avert or survive it on Earth. To prioritise saving a, what, 50 person research base on Mars that doesn't exist yet over billions of people who exist right now on Earth by spending your resources on a research base on Mars instead of an asteroid detection and diversion system for Earth is crazy.

If your priority was saving the most people, Mars wouldn't be on the list. Orbital space stations are closer. The Moon is closer. Under-ocean habitats are closer. Underground habitats are closer. Self-contained arcologies are closer. (Wearing a mask is closer).


but the rewards of colonizing space are so much greater too. Imagine making gold so cheap and valueless that we now use it for consumer electronics, wiring, etc. smaller, more efficient devices, less energy loss, etc would change the world.

structural metals harvested from not earth means environmental destruction from mining would not only be unnecessary, but fiscally stupid, in orbit construction could build an equivalent loving space as your floating cities, and more, and provide theoretical backups to humanity.


There's a huge difference between sending a robot probe or small dedicated mining crew with hazard pay to an asteroid and dragging/slinging chunks of precious metals sunward, and making a self-sustaining colony on Mars.

Like the difference between building an offshore oil-rig (happens a lot) and building a self-sustaining colony on the ocean (never happens), only much moreso.


Which isn't a great surrogate because the original settlers of the Americas were not some organized exploratory group dispatched by the queen to find new lands. They were nomads hunting megafauna that were on the other side of the proverbial river when the ice melted after ten millennia.


> or even left Africa.

I think it's pretty clear the parent post is talking about the first people to migrate to the Americas.


noun: colonization; plural noun: colonizations; noun: colonisation; plural noun: colonisations

- the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.

- the action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use.


Polynesians?


I've seen more anti-space rhetoric in the last few weeks than ever before in my life. What gives? Great advancements have cost. That doesn't make them not worth doing


It's not that great advancements have cost.

The argument is that focusing on space exploration deflects from facing the realities of climate change on our planet. If people start to think that space exploration could yield a solution to an increasingly uninhabitable climate on Earth, it could create a scenario where we spend even more on space exploration and less on addressing Earth's climate.


I've posted this before, but I see terraforming other planets as a necessary step to learn how to take care of the Earth. Large-scale geoengineering will be necessary sooner or later on Earth. However, it almost certainly has failure modes that we don't know about, and won't know about until we can experiment with it. Testing the effects on Earth, with nearly 8 billion people, is wildly reckless. Testing the effects on Mars or Venus, though costlier to implement, has the advantage of not risking those 8 billion lives.


You’ve got it exactly backwards IMO. Terraforming Mars or Venus will take millennia at least, millennia that we don’t currently have the luxury of waiting around for. We need to terraform Earth first — restore some of the damage we’ve done over just the last century or two — before we can think about the much more difficult project of terraforming other planets.


I understand we are at risk of large populations being displaced. But you seem to be under the impression we are facing a human extinction event, is that something backed up by science?


I think that’s a risk on the right tail, although not a very likely one. But even the modal outcomes — 2 or 3 K of warming relative to the preindustrial baseline — will likely kill hundreds of millions of humans and lead to the extinction of countless nonhuman plant and animal species. I’m comfortable saying that we should do whatever possible to mitigate that outcome instead of focusing on creating Martian bunkers for the 1% of the 1%.


> even the modal outcomes ... will likely kill hundreds of millions of humans

Once we are dealing with scenarios where hundreds of millions of humans are dying, it becomes harder to rule out the possibility of some desperate political or military leader resorting to using nuclear weapons. From there it is a small step to full nuclear war and the deaths of billions of humans.

Perhaps the "optimistic" scenarios are ones in which the hundreds of millions of humans that die are located far away from any nuclear armed countries, or at least those countries aren't destabilised by the economic and migration consequences of those deaths. I can, unfortunately, imagine militaries being routinely used this century for wiping out the remaining civilian populations of failed states.


Alternately: we can't even stop the anti-terraforming transformation of our own planet into an unlivable hellhole, despite the tremendous benefits of doing so, so why would anyone think we could possibly spend enough money to terraform a planet a zillion miles away that is inherently hostile to human life and where there is no financial benefit to doing so?


>I've posted this before, but I see terraforming other planets as a necessary step to learn how to take care of the Earth.

This thinking seems backwards. How can we learn to take a totally dead planet and make it living when we can't even figure out how to keep this one healthy?


I doubt the person you are replying to is suggesting that full scale terraforming is possible in a fraction of a million years. But perhaps smaller scale insightful experiments might be done without fear of wiping out life in our solar system.


Exactly. What happens if we have a swarm of satellites to divert/concentrate a large amount of solar radiation? What happens if we geo-engineer bacteria to precipitate out greenhouse gases? How long does it take for particulate matter to settle after diverting an asteroid to impact the planet? If we can make oceans, how does the size of oceans affect the absorption of new asteroid deliveries?

Mars and Venus are, as far as every experiment has shown, dead as doornails. Using them as a testbed for experiments that are too dangerous to do on Earth without first practicing is a good use for them.


I agree in a very theoretical and academic way, but practically speaking, how long will this testing take? We already risked the 8 billion lives with the accidental geoengineering we’re doing now.


IMO there's 8 billion of us, we can do both.


Not only can we do both, but there is significant overlap.

To give two examples among many:

SpaceX's next major goal after making Starship capable of flying to Mars is to develop the infrastructure to refuel Starship on Mars. They plan to manufacture their fuel using the Sabatier process, which is also a form of carbon sequestration.

Research and development into Martian food production pushes the envelope in many agricultural research areas like vertical farming, high efficiency production with few inputs, et cetera.


Then let's do both, and not just space exploration.


Do you honestly think people are focusing more on exploration than other things? We already do both.


Globally, no. In certain spheres (some influential), yes. And while I realize that my comment is (intentionally) pushing it a bit, I do think that when you look at the urgency of space exploration and climate issues that, per unit of urgency, space exploration is getting far more attention than climate issues.


Addressing global warming is not a cost in the long run, but the opposite. Technology that doesn't consume fossil fuel is inherently superior to what we have now and will generate enormous profits once the engineering is there. Don't believe me? Just look at Tesla's stock price.

Furthermore, cheap space travel does solve global warming because it makes the solution of orbital sun blocking feasible, which unlike currently available geoengineering tech, is instantly reversible.


If it weren't for what we already spent on space exploration, we wouldn't have nearly as much understanding of climate change, and we wouldn't have the variety of satellites we rely on to address the climate.

Both is more than one.


>The argument is that focusing on space exploration deflects from facing the realities of climate change on our planet.

Does it? It's not an either/or proposition.

Researching and developing technologies to allow humans to live in space in a sustainable way seems like it would almost certainly also create applications of such technology that can benefit us on Earth.

Whether that's methods to scrub the atmosphere of a space-based habitat of toxins/pollutants, utilize waste in productive ways and a raft of other stuff would be incredibly useful on Earth.

As an aside, I'd point out that even if we start colonizing space habitats, other planets and/or even planets around other stars, there are no technologies available or imagined that could transport colonists from the Earth faster than birth rates would replace them and continue population growth.


>As an aside, I'd point out that even if we start colonizing space habitats, other planets and/or even planets around other stars, there are no technologies available or imagined that could transport colonists from the Earth faster than birth rates would replace them and continue population growth.

Yeah, you should avoid needing that but it is certainly not impossible given high enough tech level & in-space infrastructure. Launch loops and orbital elevators should have more than enough capacity to enable that.

For a science-fiction-backed-by-real-science account of it might go, see this Orions Arm article: https://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/49b46fd2198ed

Much bigger problem actually is where to put those billions once you have to move them in a hurry off a planet.


>Yeah, you should avoid needing that but it is certainly not impossible given high enough tech level & in-space infrastructure. Launch loops and orbital elevators should have more than enough capacity to enable that.

I think you're underestimating the effort, resources and logistics something like this would require.

In 2016, there were ~256 live births per minute[0]. That works out to ~369,000/day.

Even multiple space elevators couldn't hope to come anywhere close to that, but perhaps with launch loops as well we might be able to approach that.

But even if we could, how much of global production of, well everything, would need to be dedicated to getting even 350,000 people and the stuff they need off the earth every single day?

>Much bigger problem actually is where to put those billions once you have to move them in a hurry off a planet.

An excellent point. Even if you didn't need to hurry, the resources required just to stage such a migration are staggering and would likely exceed the production capabilities of the planet.

But as you point out, we don't really have any place to send all those "colonists" so the point is moot.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_rate


> The argument is that focusing on space exploration deflects from facing the realities of climate change on our planet.

In order to make this argument, you have to first figure out what percentage of NASA's budget is spent on space exploration versus things like GPS systems, weather satellites, climate monitoring, solar monitoring, physics experiments, etc etc, which have direct or indirect benefits to things happening here on earth.

NASA's budget for entire actual space exploration would be more-or-less a rounding error on our defense budget which routinely has $5b projects which benefits very few people and arguably makes the quality of life worse on our planet.


Not that this negates any of your other points, but GPS comes from the US defense budget, the Space Force is spending a few billion per year on it


Maybe the US should spend less on defense and should refrain from sending humans to Mars.


As far as I'm concerned, this is akin to suggesting you shouldn't back up the data on your computer because it distracts from protecting your working installation. You can do both—invest in a back-up strategy, while investing more money and vigilance in protecting the primary source.

Space exploration is more though, because not only is space exploration an investment in a back-up plan, it brings very real benefits home to earth. The whole point of exploration is that you don't know what you are going to find or what the repercussions of what you find will be.


Why do you see climate change and space exploration as orthogonal? It would seem to me that moving energy-intensive processes off the planet surface might ease the climate burden.

In the early 70's, physicist Gerard K. O'Neil asked the question "Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?" [0]

You would seem to answer this question with 'Yes.' Why?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_K._O%27Neill


The opposite is true. Investing in space exploration improves our ability to face climate change on our planet.


I think investing in space exploration improves some people's ability to face climate change on our planet. It's hard to see a scenario where everyone in the world would benefit from it, given the incredible advancement of private space flight. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing what those companies have been able to accomplish. But we can't pretend like the entirety of humanity benefits from it when access to that kind of technology is restricted to those with obscene amounts of wealth.


You could make that argument about any new technology over the last couple hundred years, and it would prove to be a vacuous argument. A rising tide lifts all boats.


Perhaps the intense focus is the only thing that drives the price. By focusing instead on a greater ambition you might deprive the "real problem" of the cancerous solutions that the political lime light brings.


The world and the US are hardly focusing on space travel. It’s a fraction of government budgets and resources. Militaries have a far larger focus, as do various economic activities.


If Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk (while Elon isn't posting moronic nonsense on Twitter) would take all the money they've invested in their pet projects trying to colonize Mars and the like and directly invested it in local programs to get some of the worst areas in the USA affected by homelessness fixed, it would likely have a greater impact on more peoples lives than what they're doing now IMO.


"If Boulton and Watt would stop wasting their time and money with those silly steam engines..."


The goal is not to impact the lives of individuals. The goal is to preserve intelligence in the event of a catastrophe.

As far as we know, we are the only part of the universe that is capable of consciousness. The argument is that it is worth going to great lengths to insure against species-wide disasters (e.g. runaway global warming, giant meteor, World War 3)

Its macro-level thinking versus micro-level.


The earth becoming uninhabitable due to climate change is going to happen way sooner than any pipe dream of folks trying to live on Mars, if they were really concerned about preserving the human species they would be putting billions of dollars into that instead.


The Earth didn’t become uninhabitable to animals and plants when volcanic activity raised the CO2 level to six times the current amount preceding dinosaur evolution. And it won’t happen for us either. That doesn’t mean climate change won’t be a significant challenge, but it’s not an extinction level event for generalists like humans who can survive in all sorts of environments.


> if they were really concerned about preserving the human species they would be putting billions of dollars into that instead.

But they have. Bezos has invested heavily into Rivian, and Musk into Tesla.


I'd take the other side of that bet if it was possible. Just one of the many things that the money has enabled is 100Mbps internet to the entire globe.


SpaceX can also be highly profitable which generates tons of tax revenue and jobs (which were otherwise going to Russia or simply not launching into space at all due to cost). It also offers cheaper ways for all governments to launch satellites and other research/national defense, freeing up capital for other social things.

And as you've mentioned it helps create new technology opportunities which also generate efficiency/value/taxes like space internet and in the longer term mining without destroying our planet.

There are plenty of benefits to society. Although there will always be a contingent who thinks everything not an altruistic social giveout = bad use of excess capital.


Maybe because it’s the governments job to address homelessness, not Bezos and Musk. Also, does throwing money at the problem fix it? What is the fix? Do they know? Do you? How do you know they don’t also donate to charities?


> it could create a scenario where we spend even more on space exploration and less on addressing Earth's climate

And what exactly is "addressing Earth's climate" ?

This naive hope that green parties keep pushing "if we cut carbon emissions it's all going to go back to the way it was" ?

Carbon levels have already risen and climate change is already happening - nobody can realistically predict the specifics or the time scale. All existing predictions I've seen have been way out of error margins - and stuff like thawing ice and releasing trapped methane etc. can have huge non-linear contributions.

Saying that X% cut in emissions is going to reduce temperature increase by Y on Z timescale is just wishful thinking, and we don't even have mechanisms to enforce X% cut across the world.

Investing in technology that could help settle Mars is a way to protect from the inescapable negative climate effects we will have to live with, the sooner we start to deal with those the better (eg. start building for hurricanes/floods/large temperature differences, etc.)


Agreed.

People are having a hard time when orange man does or says something that they actually agree with.

They need to find a glass half empty way of looking at it.


You have no way of knowing that a significant portion of people who criticise this priority would not have done so if it came at the same moment but under a different administration. You're assuming so as a form of broad insult against your political enemies.


Space exploration and research is necessary for our long term survival (1000+ years) as species, provided that us and our civilization survives short term threats like global warming and ecosystems destruction.

Space exploration is not a fix for local and urgent problems, nor is a contingency plan. That is an idea that should be eradicated. Something that may blow off, at least partially, this century, can't wait the hundreds to thousands of years for the backup plan that may provide the space exploration.

Yes, it is something that we should keep researching. But it won't be a solution for our urgent problems.


Exactly, and if we do the research and tech development at a reasonable pace, it might be ready when it _is_ needed for an urgent problem.


It's because of the recent RNC tweet[0] with a list of some of Trump's priorities for the next term, and the firs two listed were a permanent presence on the moon and sending a manned mission to Mars. It did not mention the pandemic.

Most people who already considered these were a waste of resources probably didn't bother talking about it much. Now they are, because they have a clear rallying point to shout about.

I'm very pro-space exploration, and I think highlighting those priorities right now is absurd. Imagine being someone who already thought they were a distraction from more immediate needs seeing this tweet.

EDIT: I should clarify, their first reply to that tweet went on to mentioning a vaccine, but most people just saw the first tweet.

[0] https://twitter.com/gop/status/1319715289328766980


This is the nature of political strategy. The pandemic is a really hard thing for the current administration to spin, so they're probably better off talking about "hopes and dreams" types of things. They're trying as hard as possible to look good right now in order to get reelected.


Or you could consider that whilst this global pandemic hasn't been particularly lethal or existence-threatening, the next one might be. And having off-site backup for humanity is wise in that context.


We as a society can’t even agree to guarantee basic fundamentals needed to live in the US. Flint, MI still has tainted water, millions are unemployed, homelessness is rising and some are starving.

We can’t take care of our people on this planet, what makes you think everyone, or even most people, would be the ones chosen to be on the ships headed for a new life? Just look at what billionaires spend on private doomsday shelters, you think they’re willing to accommodate the masses? Migration from Earth under those circumstances would look a whole lot like the Titanic tragedy: life boats for the rich and powerful and certain death for everyone else.


In addition to your point about timing, there is also a contingent of people who will reflexively oppose anything Trump advocates, completely independent of merit.


I agree and it’s starting to feel like there’s an agenda behind it


The agenda is quite simple: the West should give up, and leave space exploration to China.

Or maybe it's the aliens who noticed Elon Musk and finally started taking the risk of space colonization by humans seriously.


Trump tweeted that he wants to go to space. The anti-Trump crowd is conjuring reasons of why that’s bad now.

In reality, NASA’s budget is a rounding error in the context of the US budget - 0.4% of the federal budget. Further, SpaceX presents a realistic path forward to privatizing Mars travel, trivializing the budgetary concerns anyway.


>I've seen more anti-space rhetoric in the last few weeks than ever before in my life. What gives?

Who would benefit from English-language anti-space rhetoric?


You would think Trump & Company could capitalize on "This Earth First".

Technology has a cost in that people expect to be paid for their participation in the sector. Economies built on "defense" have huge technology capital in terms of knowledge and skill workers. This begs existential questions on the goals of productivity shared as nations and humans.

Tangentially, if the captains of Space really believed in life on mars or the moon, why aren't terraforming efforts being undertaken as center peices to the master plans to inhabit the moon or mars?


It's right there in the 2nd paragraph of the article: "Just three days earlier, the Republican Party announced some of President Donald Trump’s priorities for a potential second term. The first two priorities listed were to “Establish Permanent Manned Presence on The Moon” and to “Send the 1st Manned Mission to Mars,” coming in ahead of “Develop a Vaccine by The End Of 2020” and “Cover All Pre-Existing Conditions” in health care."

Orange man like space travel. Orange man bad. So space travel bad.


the bad orange man said something about wanting to go to space


It absolutely does make them not worth doing.


Maybe the last several months of what is going on here on Earth has made people reconsider if the massive investments required for space exploration would be better spent on something else.


Really? The first thought they had was fuck NASA and they completely ignored the trillions being spent on the US military complex?


I'm not sure why you are forcing a choice between the two. People can be against spending on both NASA and the military. Also NASA isn't completely separate from the military industrial complex.


This is a false dichotomy.


I think he's using the false dichotomy to point out that there's a hell of a lot of other bigger, less popular things than NASA that jump to mind if one's goal is to free up resources for solving more local problems.


I was mocking a false dichotomy... Covid crisis -> we have to cut space funding.


I wasn't even presenting a dichotomy let alone a false one. There have been a number of issues that have shown an increased urgency over the last several months, not just COVID. As those other issues become more urgent, space exploration falls further and further down many people's list of priorities for funding.


Earth is a graveyard of species. Looking at the geological record, more than 99% of species that ever existed here have gone extinct [1]. Overwhelming majority of them long before we showed up. And in any case, this planet will not support life forever [2].

Believing we have no destiny outside Earth is believing we have no destiny at all.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_Earth


I mean, if 99% of species go extinct it would be fair enough to expect that our species goes extinct too at some point. You could call that destiny as well, or you could call it entropy. For sure it’s not “no destiny at all”.


I don't know, I can't help but feel like nearly all of our solutions to contemporary problems involve space travel, specifically self-contained space travel (i.e., when spaceships become within an order of magnitude as affordable as houses or automobiles.) The universe is essentially limitless from a human point of view, so to be perpetually stuck on Earth seems like a failure of perspective.

- Oppressive government controlling you or your land? Move elsewhere in the solar system.

- Resource extraction destroying natural environments on Earth? Asteroids and other planets have far more natural resources and long term, it is inevitable that mining will be off-planet.

- Overpopulation? On a universal scale, there is no such thing.

Obviously most of these won't be solvable in 20, or 50, or even 100 years. But, they seem conceivably doable in 200, or even 150. In the greater scheme of things, this is a very small amount of time.


Yeah in a perfect world maybe. The problem is that we're facing issues on a relatively short term here and if we don't manage to solve them there will be no way out. If stopping the current destruction of our home planet is 1/100 difficulty, terraforming Mars would be 90/100, leaving the solar system for an already hospitable planet would be 101/100.

We're much better are polluting and creating useless gadgets than we're at long term meaningful technological innovation.

> Oppressive government controlling you or your land? Move elsewhere in the solar system.

Migrants can't pay for proper boats to cross the Mediterranean but they'll pay for interplanetary travel ?


I'd be skeptical of just assigning problems an arbitrary difficulty level and then comparing them directly. Better to recognize larger, uncontrollable trends and then see if they can be nudged into the right direction, or adjusting your actions to piggyback them. This is sort of what the whole "accelerationist" thing was about, back in the 90s.

In other words, forcing the entire world to address some contemporary issues (like overpopulation, for example) might be more difficult than just accelerating the production process that makes space colonization possible (thus solving the problem).

> Migrants can't pay for proper boats to cross the Mediterranean but they'll pay for interplanetary travel ?

I had in mind more the early settlers to America, and early frontier America itself really. When "leaving Earth civilization" becomes conceivably affordable/doable for a small group of people and/or with investment, it will happen.


> I'd be skeptical

> When "leaving Earth civilization" becomes conceivably

> it will happen.

You're less skeptical than I am apparently. Leaving the solar system and terraforming planets isn't really comparable to crossing an ocean in a boat. What you describe would be a best case scenario and for now it is pure sci fi.

> forcing the entire world to address some contemporary issues (like overpopulation, for example) might be more difficult than just accelerating the production process that makes space colonization possible (thus solving the problem).

Yeah it might, or it might not, by the time we'll figure it out it'll be way too late to revert. It's the "move fast and break things" mentality, it's fine in software but we already know how it ends up when you apply it to other systems...

We just don't know how fast and how bad it'll get if we continue, you have to be extremely optimistic to think that ignoring the real world, already existing, problems to focus on hypothetical non existing solutions is the way to go. (and we're not even focusing on solutions, we're focusing on shitty half assed money making gimmicks such as electric cars and autonomous vehicles, which aren't solving anything on a global scale)

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/06/SR15...

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/natur...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/...


I like your way of thinking.

But remember, even with sublight travel, to populate the entire galaxy would take only a few million years. Including say a thousand years to rebuild the capability in each new colony. It grows geometrically you see, and there's no beating that.

So on a Galactic scale its certainly possible to overpopulate, and in the blink of a cosmic eye (a million years). In fact that's a powerful argument for 'we must be alone', since it hasn't happened already (not getting radio signals from every star system everywhere).


Every first world economy on Earth is already below replacement rate right now, we're not going to see some out of control population disaster scenario.

The more likely situation is that we need to A. get over our racism and xenophobia to use the population bombs going off in less developed countries to replace our populations that don't want to replace themselves and B. eventually start seeing human replacement as a societal cost that will need to be afforded in some way once the entire world is sufficiently developed to go below the natural replacement rate. At which point we get to set population targets and hold our numbers stable.

A is something that we should have been doing for 30 years now. B is going to be of concern next century after the population plateaus.


It's not a powerful argument for 'we must be alone', because it's an equally powerful argument for 'space colonization is nearly impossible.' You're saying things are "certainly possible" but you don't have a shred of evidence to support that belief. It's more likely that you're vastly underestimating the cost of maintaining a life-supporting ecosystem independent of the benefits of a billions of years of evolutionary adaptation.


That thinking is about a decade out of date. The number of expolanets that are in the habitable zone grows geometrically. Some think every star has some planets. Simple chance makes it possible to find agreeable destinations nearly everywhere.

And 'evolutionary adaptation' is irrelevant. We can change ourselves (are changing ourselves) genetically already. That will only increase. The result will be a species more adaptable than any in a billion years. If it has the will to colonize other planets, it certainly can.

'A shred of evidence' is really not hard to find, if we aren't needlessly negative and contrary.


A decade out of date? It'll take you 30,000 years to reach the nearest star at the rate of the fastest moving object ever constructed by man. If anything any of us are talking about are able to be out-of-date in a mere decade, the whole premise of this discussion is flawed beyond measure.

All of the resiliency that you've seen in life is due to the fact that the environments to which we're adapted are uniform. Oceans everywhere are nontoxic and water. Air everywhere is mostly clean and breathable. There is no example of life being resilient under conditions as varied as other planets. We are only able to adapt within the confines of our clean-room Earth. We can't even adapt to the bottom of the ocean or Antarctica.

Optimism isn't going to overcome 6 orders of magnitude of error.


Not a single correct thing in that, I believe! Life on Earth has evolved to live in hundreds of dissimilar environments. Heavy salt is toxic, yet fish manage the ocean. Yellowstone has life in mud pots at hundreds of degrees. Air doesn't exist underground yet bacteria thrive there. Hell, there are living things on the surface of the space station.

To get people to tolerate more salt, we'd have to have a fish's ability to regulate it. Ok, genes for that. Air issues? Filters, microstructures to migrate particulates out, baffles (like many creates already have). Deep-ocean pressure? Only a couple of issues there, and certainly life thrives at the bottom of the ocean.

It's not optimism; its simple observation of what we have already on Earth in existing life forms.

And 30,000 years changes not a thing. The log of 1 Trillion base 2 is 39. In 40 generations of space colonization, that's 40 times 30,000 times however long it takes to rebuild the capability on each colony. In a dozen million years the galaxy would be covered. Its 20B years old. So, nobody's tried it yet.


>In 40 generations of space colonization, that's 40 times 30,000 times however long it takes to rebuild the capability on each colony.

Assuming each generation survives. Stop making that assumption, and see how many ways there are for you to reach a similarly empty universe.

>It's not optimism; its simple observation of what we have already on Earth in existing life forms.

I wish you'd observe that none of Earth's lifeforms have colonies on other planets. Goldfish didn't colonize other worlds, is that then a strong argument that Goldfish don't exist?

What you're saying makes no sense: just because animals can colonize a single planet over many generations does not mean they will be able to colonize an entire galaxy in even less time.


>I wish you'd observe that none of Earth's lifeforms have colonies on other planets. Goldfish didn't colonize other worlds, is that then a strong argument that Goldfish don't exist?

I would not be so sure about dolphins. ;-)


Again, not true. Geometric growth can't be dismissed. Even if 90% didn't survive, it just takes (a little) longer.


How the hell is a 10% survival rate "not optimism?" Try a trillionth of a percent. It makes an astronomical time difference.


You're ignoring what I believe to be the most important point: how do we know that is actually possible to build an interstellar colonial vessel?

Or, to bring a concrete element to the question: all known rocket fuels require some nonrenewable Earth resource. How much fuel does it take to launch a vessel built with currently-known technology that would be capable of landing a living human being on a hypothetical planet around Alpha Centauri? And what does that fuel number look like, when expressed in terms of "years of current resource extraction" (or, somewhat more audaciously, percentage of known proven reserves)?

To my knowledge, interstellar colonization is flat-out impossible with current technology. (I'd argue that even intrastellar colonization is impossible, rather than impractical). Arguing that we should discount this non-knowledge of how to do it when explaining why it hasn't happened to our observation is irresponsible to me.


Well, the ideal chemical rocket fuel is hydrogen + oxygen - eq. the two things that make up water. Thats perfectly renewable once you pump some energy into it to split water into the two.

Methane + oxygen popular in the new generation of rockets is not much different, you basically add some carbon to the process & Methane can be made on Mars from local resources.

Best fuel for nuclear thermal rockets is again hydrogen, abundant everywhere.

Current Ion Engines run on noble gases, but supply does not seem to be a problem so far.

Sure, the uranium needed for Orion and Nuclear Salt Water rocket indeed is not really renewable but given the performance &opening the way to grab more of it from space make it a non-issue as well.


> Some think every star has some planets.

20 years ago, before we had direct evidence of exoplanets, we had evidence from the spectrum of stars that about 80% of the ones which had grown large enough to swallow any of their planets had previously had gas giants.


You are really underestimating exponential growth in your assertion that there is no such thing as overpopulation on a universal scale. If human population is doubling say, every century, then the time it takes for us to go from populating the earth to the entire galaxy in less than 4000 years[1], and from there to the entire universe in less than another 4000.

[1]: There are a few trillion planets in our galaxy. If you asssume the mean population supported by a planet is within an order of magnitude of what Earth can support the math holds.


Well, the universe is likely infinite, so no, there's really no such thing as overpopulation on a universal scale.

But talking about humans populating the universe is also meaningless, since the speed of light and expansion of the universe means we can't reach anything but a tiny fraction of it, and by the time we have the technology to travel quickly enough to even begin contemplating intergalactic journeys only a fraction of a fraction will be within reach.


s/universe/universe observable to humans/


>If you asssume the mean population supported by a planet is within an order of magnitude of what Earth can support the math holds

Theoretically if you shred earth for material and build habitats from that, it can definitely support much more than a magnitude more.


| I don't know

You certainly don't. You have a serious misunderstanding of the sheer scale involved in space travel. Its great to think that an individual will be able to pack up their space car in 200 years and move on out west to mars or something, but there literally wont be anything to do but crash land once you get there, or maybe if you're lucky, walk around for a few hours before suffocating.

Im not saying it's not possible to colonize another planet, but I am saying that disintermediated space travel in the sense of a Heinlein novel is overwhelmingly a pipe dream.


Terraforming planets in a meaningful way anytime soon is a pipe dream, but someone in 200 years very much could get in their space car and go to a different space habitat. O'Neill cylinders have already been mentioned here.

There's no scientific reason we are aware of that would make living in artificial habitats worse than living on a planet, and a lot of reasons that it would be better. It's just that those of us talking now live on a planet, and find the idea of continuing to live on a planet comforting.

Someone born on an O'Neill cylinder or similar will likely have no such compunctions.


> There's no scientific reason we are aware of that would make living in artificial habitats worse than living on a planet, and a lot of reasons that it would be better. It's just that those of us talking now live on a planet, and find the idea of continuing to live on a planet comforting.

But this is just so obviously backwards. Your assumption is that an artificial environment would be monotonically better to live in than the one in which we evolved? There's simply no evidence for it, and if you take a look at how the people on the ISS live, a strong argument against it. As for scientific caveats...well bone density and muscle mass loss in low-g (pretty much every target location for colonization) are fairly well substantiated, as well as the cosmic ray issue, which is even harder to deal with.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O'Neill_cylinder

These are possible (if not remotely practical) with our current level of materials science and solve for both the gravity and cosmic ray/radiation issues. There's lots of other designs that should go larger, but require further advancements in things like carbon nanotubes, etc. to be possible.

As for why it would be better - control. No worries about pollution. No worries about earthquakes, volcanoes, or other natural disasters. No droughts, no hurricanes, no tornadoes.

No one is talking about living on space stations like the ISS - we're talking about building purpose built large scale structures that are designed from the ground. And these aren't things that are the realm of science fiction authors and futurists with no grounding in reality or physics - they're things that have been and continue to be seriously researched by NASA and other space agencies.


>Someone born on an O'Neill cylinder or similar will likely have no such compunctions.

"You can't really control the weather, it varies by the year and there is earthquakes and flash floods at random ? Not to mention no Free-Fall-Racing ? How the hell have you survived till now down there ??"


The author is that very special type that will probably burn you at the stakes 300 years ago if you said that humans will fly like the birds one day.

Physics today are incomplete and very flawed, with major theories being incompatible with one another and failing to answer basic questions. Even though they describe certain aspects of reality with some accuracy, it's universally agreed that they are a far cry from a grand unified theory that describes everything consistently. Everyone is still looking for that one. So realistically whether we have a destiny outside Earth or not is a very open question we will still be looking the answer of.

The choice of whether to set a Moon base or not will bare 0 effect on those that wish to stay in the cave.


>The author is that very special type that will probably burn you at the stakes 300 years ago

Your comment easily stands on its own without first committing such a dramatic, emotional insult. It's quite easy to accuse people of being violent murderers of you just frame it as "N hundreds of years ago".


> they describe certain aspects of reality with some accuracy

What point are you trying to make with this statement?

Most of physics that is well understood and agreed upon has been verified to the limits of the instruments that we can currently create. See, for instance, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200409100338.h... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_special_relativity


It's exactly that - special relativity for example does great at the big scale but fails at the small scales where quantum physics take over. This disparity between the two signals there is lots still to discover that will paint the whole picture.

Similarly Newtonian physics was also well understood and worked great, and still does; but as it turned out, there is a bigger story. The way things go, i think it's reasonable to suggest that current physics is just another stepping stone on our way to something even better that will unlock much more capabilities. It's been what - ~300 or so years since Newton and ~100 since quantum mechanics. We're basically in our infancy, can't draw ultimate conclusions about what is possible for our destiny. What will happen in the next 200 years?


It is dangerous to think fish have a destiny outside Ocean, said a vocal member in a school of fish 400 million years ago.


Columbus had a hard time finding anyone to fund his idea of traveling west to seek India until the new monarchs in Spain decided it was cheap enough to risk and he found a whole new land mass (sadly to loot). People have always taken risks and gone to new places and found things not imagined by others. Space will be no different; the only difference is we already know a lot about it. Whether governments or industry or some crackpot does it, it will happen because someone wants to try.


Columbus had a hard time finding anyone to fund his suicide expedition. Everyone (well, everyone sufficiently well educated) knew the Earth was round, and knew the approximate size. Columbus mistranslated units and ended up with a world about half the circumference of Earth, putting the far east in easy reach. NASA actually has an article on this [0].

Had the Americas not existed, Columbus would have had had to make his way back with no fresh water or food, and a high risk of scurvy.

0: https://pwg.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Scolumb.htm


> Space will be no different

Space is different. The analogy between the discoveries of new continents and the exploration of space is terribly naive. I would understand if it came from a 12 years old with his bedroom full of sci-fi novels, but not from grown ups.


If humanity survives for the next 400 million years, undoubtedly space will be part of our future.

Currently organized human civilization as we know it has a much less than 1% chance of surviving the next 400 years.


I think that the evolution of land animals (and especially humans) has had more negative than positive consequences for sea life.


This analogy makes no sense. The argument stands without the assertion that we certainly will not ever have a future in space.


I agree that for every resource we need, getting that resource on earth (if it exists on earth) will always make more sense than seeking it in space. Humanity should always seek to fulfill its needs from terrestrial sources. We shouldn't mistake space exploration for infrastructure building.

At the same time - this doesn't mean we shouldn't explore space! Just that we should understand that exploration as low-to-no-return investigations, not investments in the foreseeable future. I also don't think we've reached the limit for that kind of research. Our society could safely tolerate much higher levels of investment in space exploration (as long as it remains a very small proportion of all investments). We have many other "pure research" fields which are key to long-term health, but do not meaningfully contribute to our current survival.

Like Roko's Basilisk, this is a good reminder of the dangers of using resources that we have today to try to reach a future we may never see. The human ability to plan for an imagined future is key to our humanity, but so is our ability to deceive ourselves.


I don't agree about sourcing supplies on Earth for the simple reason that mining operations on Earth ravage the countryside and leave it permanently dead and poisoned.

https://edgy.app/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/mining.jpg

https://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/2d6c839bf3889ca045acde28...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Pit

Many of these minerals exist in abundance on astroids, and I would love to see us protect the Earth by mining there instead of here.


If we captured an asteroid we would immediately double or triple the world's supply of metals like platinum. They simply are not plentiful for us on the crust.

I like to believe that we can achieve this within our lifetime. Having the price of certain rarer metals come down significantly would be amazing!


Are there projects that required more rare metals than exist on earth? I agree that it would be nice to have more things, but I'm skeptical of the numbers working out. The Apollo program brought back ~850lbs of moon rocks and cost ~$150bn. Obviously the primary purpose of the program wasn't mining, but I think what I said above applies.

It might work out and we might get a lot, but we should make investment choices with the assumption that it won't. If we are ever in a situation where civilization makes asteroid mining work or it falls apart it would be very bad because asteroid mining is hard! It's likely easier to use platinum more efficiently.


From the top of my head making all wires out of gold you would get much better conductivity & avoid the issues copper has with oxidation. I'm sure there are examples for other currently expensive materials.

Also aluminum used to be super expensive and only used for jewelry until it became dirt cheap and is used for about anything.


Come down siginificantly?

So much depends on demand, one of the more sophisticated analyses I've seen realised that Nickel (at the time) was a good bet since it was fairly expensive and in high demand.

Also people hold gold as a store of value, if it becomes cheap then they might as well sell that too. Sure we could start using gold as ship ballast...


Very much so! But the idea is fascinating. What if the price of platinum was on par with aluminum? What kind of products could exist that simply can out today?

This[0] article puts it into perspective just how much metals exist out there.

Seems like most of the precious metals we have access to are from previous asteroid collisions. There is a theory that the last age ~12k years ago was from an asteroid impact, and that it can be traced due to changes in platinum levels.

Whoever figures out how to mine metals from space rocks is going to have an interest problem to face. They can't just dump it all onto the market -- they'll have to pull a move similar to the diamond industry. Stockpile it and constrain supply (because of their monopoly) to keep the prices high enough to make a profit from the (risky) endeavor.

One can dream :)

0: https://strangesounds.org/2019/06/asteroid-16-psyche-gold-me...


Once the bulk of humanity is 'in space' (on planetary bodies or in stations outside of earth) then the goalposts change! Sending things back to sad ol earth becomes unsupportable.


Well, Earth has one big advantage for sending something back - the atmosphere! Free deceleration and semi automatic landing system (add parachutes & airbags as necessary)!

Just make sure to choose the right entry angle and speed, or else the locals won't like you. Either for burning op their packages or due to delivering them rather too directly to the surface at high speed.


I mean, that's true! Your scenario also places our investment in learning how to live in space in the past. If we're already living in space then, of course, investing in learning how to live in space worked out!

This is what I was saying at the end about investing resources we have now into futures we may never see. If you argue from the point of view that projects will always work out as you imagine they will, then your investing ideas will always make sense. I just don't think that's how things work in practice.


That's a pretty negative view - never try anything that isn't sure to work out? Am I understand the argument properly? We'd still all be living in Europe (or Africa!) if that was the way folks always decided.


Again, I am pro space exploration.

It's about how we understand resource expenditures. Spending resources to research how to improve crop yields cannot replace food production. You have to invest resources to feed everyone with current technology, then spend surpluses on researching improvements.

We should explore space, but we shouldn't expect exploring space to solve our current problems.


I would argue that only when society is expanding does life get better for most people. When societies start to contract, people start trying to get control of as much of the shrinking pie as possible, and the people least able or with the least power struggle the most. If you want an equitable society, and you don't want an authoritarian state forcing equity on everyone, then you need society to expand to space.

Edit: fixed some typos that messed up the meaning.


> When societies start to contract people start trying to get control of as much of the shrinking pie as possible and the people least able or with the least power struggle the least.

As right as you are, contraction is inevitable. Even if colonize space, it is not going to happen in any significant scale the next 100 years.

So, maybe we are doomed because people in power will always want more power and that creates a downwards spiral for non-growing societies. Maybe that is the "great filter" that await for us.

I believe that societies will accommodate for the new situation. Not only Americans, but humans, always do the right thing after trying everything else.


Yep, I agree. It seems like progress comes in waves. We have periods of advance and periods of stagnation or regress. From about 1000CE to 2000CE was mostly advance, although there were some questionable periods where arguably that was not true (late 1700s-early 1800s, 1914-1945, for example). It looks like we're now entering a period of regression, but it could turn out to be another temporary period of stagnation/reorganization followed by renewed growth.


How bizarre to try to make space exploration a Republican issue. The author posted stats that 72% of Americans say it's essential for the US to remain a world leader in space exploration. That is definitely higher than the percentage of Americans who are registered Republicans.

Everything has to be politicized these days.


My argument for colonizing other worlds has nothing to do with finding a "new utopia" and everything to do with not having all of our eggs in one basket.

Earth is going to get annihilated at some point. It would be nice if our species didn't go with it.


“It would be nice if our species didn’t go with it?”

On a semi-facetious note, why would it be nice? If the species did the annihilation, isn’t that just good galactic hygiene? Or perhaps humans are just a beta version of a dodgy app. It goes down the “why is there something rather than nothing” rabbit hole, but the post started it...


Call it an intrinsic loyalty to my species.

Or, more charitably in the case of humanity actually ending Earth, further opportunity for learning. Even if it's because of humanity that Earth ceases to be a viable life-bearing world, if our species learns from that and doesn't do it again, then what's one planet in the grand scheme of things?


What a garbage argument. We can do both. We can look outside Earth, and take care of what we have. There is no reason we can't do both, so let's do both.


At one point it was dangerous to think the Earth revolves around the Sun.

It's good to think that we should be able to leave Earth at some point. The problem is not that line of thinking.

The problem is that we're spending money on military eq instead of medicine, proper education and development. I think we'd be a lot further than we are now. For now we are still "savages" in the grand scheme of things.


We are spending plenty on space, just see SLS.


Life has spent 3.5 billion years adapting to the peculiarities of this planet.

There’s undoubtedly much we have yet to learn about the universe, and exploring it is the obvious way to learn. Yet I have long seen it as the height of hubris to think we could replace this planet from which we arose.

Everything from gravity to day length to soil composition, never mind the atmosphere which is at least theoretically reproducible, is something with millions of years of adaptation encoded into our genes, and has no compatible world within our known universe.

We can and should explore, and some will choose to make their home among the stars, but as a species, nothing can replace our Earth.


We can already change 'our species'. It's changed more in the last 50,000 years than the 3 million before that, just because we started living in close societies.

And now we can do it deliberately. Never mind genetics, a large part of our makeup is now mental models, which can simply be taught. "Don't go outside without taking your anti-fungals and putting on sunscreen!"


You don't think over the next, say, hundred million years our descendants could adapt equally well to other worlds?


>the reality is that the GOP wouldn’t make these things a priority...

The author seems to be mixing up a tweet with the actual party platform. You can't say that they're making it a priority until we start to see NASA budget increases of the magnitude we saw during the Apollo era. Until they put their money where their mouth is, the tweet is just marketing fluff

>This myth not only allows the government to ignore the ongoing climate crisis on Earth, which scientists say could reach an irreversible tipping point in less than 10 years

Bullshit. No one thinks that humanity is going to have self-sustaining colonies on the moon or Mars within 10 years. Our government may be ignoring climate issues here on Earth, but it's not because they expect to leave the planet

>At a time when American unemployment the worst since the depression era

This article was published today. Why is the author citing unemployment statistics that were published 7 months ago? It seems like intentional cherrypicking

>It might or might not be a coincidence that the news of SOFIA discovering water on the moon came just days after the GOP announced their otherworldly priorities for a second term.

Is there any evidence that it's not a coincidence, or is the author just trying to spread FUD? How much influence does Donald Trump have over Nature's publication schedule?

>Is it space exploration or is it a decent standard of living at home? Is it the moon, Mars, or Earth?

This is a false dichotomy if there ever was one. For a decade, the US military spent more money on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan than we did on NASA. Imagine what NASA could have accomplished if our military only occupied temperate regions

Edit: another thing that bugs me is this implication that NASA spending is orthogonal to quality of life here on Earth, as if they were just launching billions of dollars into the ether. What would communities like Huntsville AL look like if NASA's budget was 0'd out? How much of the climate science they quote earlier in the article would have happened without NASA funding?


yeah, this bs article doesnt deserve to be on hn. and lastly, who the f cares what Seth Rogan thinks? besides being an actor, isnt he Canadian?


This point of view is moot. Private companies seem to be rapidly advancing in capability and in some cases have already surpassed the capabilities of nation states.

SpaceX seems to be the dominant player in the launch market with RocketLab quickly eating up the small satellite market. BlueOrigin is supplying the rocket engines for the NASA rocket to the moon. NASA is contracting private companies for the moon landing.

Unless this point of view advocates banning space colonization, private companies will take people to space, the Moon, and Mars. I wonder if this person’s position is really to ban colonization of other worlds and habitats in space.


Wherever you go, there you are.

If we as a species can't successfully fulfil our caretaker role on the one planet we currently occupy, expansion would be happening with the wrong motivations and the end result will be perpetuating the same patterns of harm on an even larger scale.

Article chooses to frame the question in an American political context which reduces a wide philosophical issue worthy of discussion to a narrow partisan hack piece that only feeds petty argument and division. The USA doesn't have a monopoly on space exploration, so should we/shouldn't we hand wringing is irrelevant.


"He’d captured strange and distant worlds in greater detail than ever before. They were beautiful, magnificent, full of awe and wonder. But beneath their sublime surfaces, there was nothing. No love or hate. No light or dark. He could only see what was not there, and miss what was right in front of him."


Nothing busy settlers with space habitats can't fix. Wait a few hundred years and you might get a place even more vile than Tatooine! ;-)


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