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At this moment we need Elon Musk more than Carl Sagan
Also, we in the West need multi-partisan support for spaceflight and space expansion.
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Please scroll down for the main topic of this newsletter. But first:
An article published in The Daily Beast is titled “Whoever Controls the Moon Controls the Solar System.” Excerpts:
“This time, the race to the moon is about much more than just planting a flag on its dusty surface. Getting to the moon first could also mean calling dibs on its limited resources, and controlling a permanent gateway to take humans to Mars - and beyond…
It’s a gateway to truly larger space ambitions... This time, the moon is a training ground, and Mars is the destination...”
Based on opinions provided by experts, The Daily Beast argues that “China and Russia don’t pose much competition to the U.S. as long as NASA doesn’t dawdle on its way back to the moon.” But of course this is exactly the problem.
“China has the benefit of being able to establish a long-term plan and funding, which allows them the ability to chip away at their 30-50-100 year vision... We don’t have that luxury; our plans are good for a presidential term, and our budgets are appropriated annually so our programs start, stop and starve.”
Exactly. We need a solid multi-partisan commitment to spaceflight and human expansion into the solar system. I’m happy to see this article in a left-oriented publication like The Daily Beast, and I look forward to cultural shifts that could bridge the political divide and enable different factions to collaborate for the common good. Because space expansion IS the common good. I elaborate on this in my book “Futurist spaceflight meditations.”
My previous newsletter “In Elon We Trust” has provoked interesting discussions on social media. Some articles were brought up:
“Musk’s following is quasi-religious in nature… But we can do better. Shannon Stirone of the Atlantic contrasts the futurism of Elon Musk with that of Carl Sagan, the great humanist astronomer, who had a far more socialistic vision, one that emphasized the universe’s beauty and mystery, and the folly of our earthly power struggles.” Source: Current Affairs.
Here’s what Stirone says:
“Like Sagan, Musk exhibits a religious-like devotion to space, a fervent desire to go there, but their purposes are entirely divergent. Sagan inspired generations of writers, scientists, and engineers who felt compelled to chase the awe that he dug up from the depths of their heart. Everyone who references Sagan as a reason they are in their field connects to the wonder of being human, and marvels at the luck of having grown up and evolved on such a beautiful, rare planet.
The influence Musk is having on a generation of people could not be more different. Musk has used the medium of dreaming and exploration to wrap up a package of entitlement, greed, and ego. He has no longing for scientific discovery, no desire to understand what makes Earth so different from Mars, how we all fit together and relate. Musk is no explorer; he is a flag planter.” Source: The Atlantic.
The last sentence is really mistaken. Elon Musk is no flag planter. Flag planters are those who plant a flag and then forget. Like, you know, the US government with its flags-and-footprints (-only) missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Elon is planning a Big F# Mars Base as a first step toward making humanity multi-planetary. Not only flags-and-footprints, but cosmic visions and works to realize the visions.
Becoming multi-planetary, expanding our habitat first to the planets and then to the stars, will give us all the time in the universe for scientific discovery and understanding “how we all fit together and relate.” If instead we remain confined to the Earth, we might not have that time. Therefore I think expanding into space must be our top priority, and Elon has the priorities figured out just right. Let’s get a solid start on the road to the stars, and then we can discuss everything else.
I have always admired Carl Sagan. In my book “Tales of the Turing Church” (Chapter 6) I say: “It’s impossible not to love Carl Sagan. Like Arthur Clarke, Sagan was a prophet and a poet of the space age. I’ve grown up reading Sagan’s books, and Sagan is one of my heroes.”
Sagan was NOT against space expansion. On the contrary, in the last chapter of “Pale Blue Dot” he acknowledges that perhaps “our choice really is many worlds or none” and continues:
“In more than one respect, exploring the Solar System and homesteading other worlds constitutes the beginning, much more than the end, of history… In the long run, as Tsiolkovsky and Goddard long ago recognized, we need to leave the Solar System.”
It is true that Sagan criticized hubris and recklessness. He preferred cautious space exploration to aggressive space expansion, science to colonization, and reflection to action. But aren’t reflection and action two necessary and complementary sides of the same coin? Action without reflection can be dangerous, but reflection without action can be equally dangerous.
If, as Sagan realized, “with human societies on several worlds, our prospects would be far more favorable,” then we must strive to establish human societies on several worlds, in this and other solar systems, before it’s too late.
I think Elon Musk is a necessary counterpart to Carl Sagan. Musk leaves sophisticated and politically correct philosophy to others, and strives to establish human societies on several worlds before it’s too late. Of course it can also be argued that Carl Sagan is a necessary counterpoint to Elon Musk. But my point is that we need both, and I think at this moment we in the West need Musk more than Sagan.
This reminds me of the words inscribed on the tomb of Karl Marx: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways - the point however is to change it.”
This is pure Marx. You must have seen condemnations of “cultural Marxism” (probably by commentators who have never read Marx), but please note that Marx would be horrified by some of these attributions, and by many things that have been said in his name.
In his dissertation, “Marx saluted Prometheus’ revolt against the gods as a proclamation of ‘human self-consciousness as the highest divinity’” (Source: “The Marx-Engels Reader” edited by Robert C. Tucker). Today, Marx would certainly criticize Musk as a top representative of capitalism, but I think he would also approve of Musk’s Promethean hubris. And perhaps he would develop a synthesis.