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Seneca the Younger said there is no easy way from Earth to the stars. And his fellow man, homo viator, has proven him right for millennia. In his day, Da Vinci tried to figure out flight, but was unsuccessful. Men died on Apollo 1. Even today, space travel remains a risky endeavor.

But has mere impossibility ever stopped the dreamers?

There is something about reaching out beyond Earth that fascinates. And has fascinated at least since man invented fire, and campfires, and was able to concentrate more on the poetry of the stars at night--rather than predators seeking him in the darkness.

Voyager 1 and 2 are in interstellar space now. Sojourner, Spirit and Curiosity are somewhere up there on Mars. This month, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., held a "Humans to Mars" summit. Things are looking up, in more ways than one.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may have money to burn, but thank the heavens he's not actually burning it. The other day he unveiled the lunar lander one of his companies has been secretly building--along with plans to put people back on the moon, and not just the moon.

Until now, it's all been very hush-hush. According to dispatches, even the announcement took place at a "secretive event." We got the details from London's Daily Mail, which has a habit of scooping papers in the New World: "[T]he Blue Origin founder outlined self-sustaining habitats that could hold entire cities, agricultural areas, and even national parks in space."

These habitats, which could hold a million or so people each, give or take a football team, would be close enough to Earth that people could go back-and-forth on day trips. According to Jeff Bezos, people in these spacey ecosystems will have the perfect climate, "like Maui on its best day, all year long." That, but no thunderstorms or volcanoes or hurricanes or earthquakes or other things that go bump on this planet.

Earth only has so much space, not to mention raw materials. But according to Mr. Bezos: "If we're out in the solar system, we can have a trillion humans in the solar system--which means we'd have a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins. This would be an incredible civilization." You may say he's a dreamer. But he's not the only one.

The artists' renditions of these modern-day cloud cities show skyscrapers and elk, grain fields and high-speed rail, waterfalls and townhouses. All being spun around to give the place a little gravity.

Even a dreamer like Jeff Bezos says this is a long-term project. Or as he put it, the price of admission into space right now is much too high. But first steps are coming. Such as getting his company's lunar lander on the moon. Actually the first step might have been when his people put this plan together. Or maybe the first step came around that campfire thousands of years ago.

Remember, things change fast, and change when most of us aren't looking. With a little perspective, you realize that it wasn't all that long ago that people thought the world was flat. (Some might still.) And that Mars had canals, and canal-builders. It hasn't even been 100 years since Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight over the Atlantic. What will we see by 2119? Or next year?

Who says this country of pioneers and explorers and just plain wanderers has given up on the New Frontier? This country's space effort isn't quite ready for the museums.

As much fun as science can be, scientists, on the other hand, are party-poopers. Last fall, a NASA study found that people floating in space might have more to worry about than meteor showers. Apparently, those studying these things say cosmic radiation would affect any human on long space trips. And it wouldn't be a minor irritation, either. Those in the know say cosmic radiation could fry your guts. That's no way to live.

Then again, scientists told us mankind would never break the sound barrier, either:

"There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up. Their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lives at Mach 1 on the meter, 750 miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way."--Levon Helm, Arkie in good standing and narrator for The Right Stuff.

So what if it's merely impossible to live in space long-term? Man the Voyager has seen worse.

Editorial on 05/19/2019

Print Headline: Ad astra

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Archived Comments

  • Morebeer
    May 19, 2019 at 9:04 a.m.

    As for exploration of the universe, unmanned flights are clearly the way to go. Colonizing earth orbit is a whole different issue. Editorial seems to confuse the two.

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