28Dec2016

The Fight For Space

What and Why We Are… in Space

We live in a man made, material world. A world of high technology. A world created from the remnants of stars. Created that is nearly 4 billion years ago, but a world that we have forged to fit our own purpose. In less than a blink of an eye on a cosmic scale, our race has gone from being nothing to being something. Something which is entirely remarkable and to our knowledge, very rare. All the while the world beneath us has not changed, at least not beyond its own sense of normality.

When reflecting on the thought of a world crafted by mankind, I find myself asking ‘just how well are we doing as a race?’ and ‘could we be doing better?’.

The evolution of our knowledge has long confirmed that the simpler an organism or idea, the greater its chance of survival or success, something we have come to know as a matter of fact. But as Humans we have a rare ability, the ability, much against the nature of that which created us, to make what should be relatively simple infinitely more difficult. Life.

Please Explain?

OK, I shall explain. We live in what Scientists call the ‘Age of Technology’. We have in the past 50 years alone sent men (and women) into space. We have, for the first time in history, set foot upon a surface outside of our own planet, we have sent man-made machines to Mars, we have more astonishingly sent spacecraft hurdling through space at a rate of 10 miles per second (36,000mph) toward Alpha Centuri, a star system of which we have had the intellect to record and catalogue, amongst so many others.

The fact that we can do these things make us incredible creatures. We can even go so far as to say that our intelligence enables us to understand what we are on an basic level: a conscious, solid gathering of atoms attempting to understand the universe as a whole, and by extension, attempting to understand other atoms. Ironic, isn‘t it?

But in our infinite wisdom, we have a shortcoming, two in fact. Man-made barriers that do and will continue to hold us back as a race. This could very well mean the difference between our destruction or survival, especially considering just how volatile the universe really is.

You could summarise both of these barriers as plain arrogance but I think a more thorough breakdown is required here. So, drilling down to the bedrock of the issue, what are these barriers? Quite simply, money and politics.

Money and Power

How exactly does money and politics effect our advancement and perhaps even our survival as a race, I hear you silently ask? Let us first look to what many refer to as the root of all evil (maybe they are right?). Money.

Money is a factor in your everyday life, just as it’s a factor in my everyday life and the life of everyone else around the civilised world. Without this man-made bargaining tool you can’t feed your family, you can’t keep a roof over your head, you can’t indulge yourself in whatever luxuries you enjoy most. Put simply, you become very limited in your everyday life. I would like you to picture this scenario, what if money did not exist? Or if it did, that is wasn’t an important factor?

Thankfully, we don’t need to try very hard to imagine this scenario as we already have a fine example in place. I am of course referring to the earlier period of the Cold War, the Space Race if you will. The time when  America’s NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos were established, and was for all intents and purposes the birth of our advancement in technology.

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As with any war, all that matters is victory or defeat. There is no middle ground in war and for that reason, during times of war, financial factors no longer matter. You can’t spend money if you’re dead now can you?

Let us focus on NASA alone for the time being. NASA’s Budget during the early years of the Space Race was 4.41% of the overall Defence Budget for the USA, this compared with today’s meagre 0.45% leaves quite a gap. Those figures may look small, but this translates in to billions of dollars.

Dollar Driven

As a race, we had advanced more in the early years of the Space Race than we have in the 50 years that have followed. Not only that but due to the ever decreasing budget that our politicians (wait for it) have set, progress is becoming slower, or one could make the argument that we are still progressing, but just not as fast as we could or should be. A fair argument I feel.

Patents can be a plus or minus game

This example shows us that when money is not a factor, progression for the sake of progression is the prerogative. When money is not a factor, we advance quicker as a race. In the space of a few years, with a budget of 4.41%, men travelled into space and even landed on the moon.

Now imagine if you will that instead of 4.41%, the budget was 100% and think about what that could achieve? Or rather, if you removed the budget entirely and sought advancement simply out of being the curious and creative race that we are, where would we be right now?

Had our race not created the concept of currency I’m convinced that I would be enjoying daily strolls along one of the many parks on Titan with my Dogapus and watching my children graduate from Starfleet Academy. Money not only restricts our everyday lives, but as a race, it slows our advancement down significantly.

Now, let us move on to our next point. Politics (as if money wasn’t bad enough). I don’t know many people who trust politicians, but here we are not going to concentrate so much on the politicians themselves, more so on the policies and procedures that they have created in their wake.

We have many laws, policies and procedures, many of which are a universal constant, some being moral and others not so moral (ridiculous). Some of these laws serve to protect people and others to protect (and I use that term loosely) corporations, our problem being with the latter.

Protection Methods

What is good for corporations and what is good for the human race are two very different, conflicting things. The finest example I can think of (and there are many, a sad truth in itself) is Patent Laws. These laws serve to protect an inventor (or most of the time, a corporation) from having his/hers/their invention stolen and/or remade one step better.

While that is all good and well for the inventor, it does restrict that which has been created from being advanced further or exactly the same as before, one can make the argument that advancement will still occur, but just not as fast as it could (or should) be advancing. The medical industry a very guilty party in this example.

Let us use an example that we can all relate to. The recent patent lawsuits between Apple and Samsung over the technology in their mobile phones. Two multi-billion dollar corporations going neck and neck in a row over their inventions, bickering like school children over who invented what, when and how.

Joining Forces

Now picture this scenario, what if these two massive corporations stopped bickering and actually started working together? What ingenious marvels they could create when removing the politics from the equation? I am convinced that had these companies worked together and stopped wasting their time and effort with patent lawsuits, we would each have our very own communication implants built directly into the communication sensors of our brains so that we can contact anyone, anywhere and anytime, regardless of what planet they are on.

But there are exceptions to this selfishness, exceptions that should serve as an example to us all. Not every inventor protects their creations with a patent, some inventors have no interest in personal profit at all and care only for the advancement of mankind.

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A united space program could achieve great things

There was once a very wise, intelligent and kind man, who when asked who owned the patent for his world-changing invention (it is sad that we automatically assume an invention is patented at all) replied ‘There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?’. The man I am of course referring to is Jonas Edward Salk. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Salk and his work, he was an American medical researcher and virologist who spent 7 years of his life, along with a skilled research team, developing a cure for Polio and when successful, gave it to the world for free.

So you see, it is possible to look past selfish impulse and when that happens, we see results beyond any other. When money is taken out of the equation, we see results that topple anything seen before. There are ways and means to advance ourselves further and quicker as a race, but the people in charge refuse to allow it. Money and politics it seems are their prerogative. What is yours? Written by: Richard Garner – The Space Collective

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