The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of Earth taken Feb. 14, 1990, by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) from the Sun. The image inspired the title of scientist Carl Sagan’s book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space,” in which he wrote:
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
“Becoming a multi-planet species and spacefaring civilization — this is not inevitable — it’s very important to appreciate: this is not inevitable. The sustainable energy future I think is largely inevitable but becoming a spacefaring species is definitely not inevitable. If you look at the progress in space — in 1969 we were able to send somebody to the moon. Nineteen sixty-nine. Then we had the space shuttle. The space shuttle could only take people to low Earth orbit. Then the space shuttle retired and the United States could take no one to orbit. So that’s the trend. The trend is like [downward hand movement]…down to nothing. This is not — people are mistaken if they think that technology automatically improves. It does not automatically improve. It only automatically improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better. And actually it will, I think, if left by itself degrade actually. If you look at civilizations like Ancient Egypt and they were able to make the pyramids, and they forgot how to do that. And the Romans, they built these incredible aqueducts. They forgot how to do it.”
“NASA has established a cadence of Mars missions, each more complicated than the last, each developing Martian science and engineering with eventual human exploration in mind. As long as the Mars missions continue, the agency can iterate on its carefully accumulated institutional knowledge. If that knowledge is wasted and manufacturing partners spin down, the entire Mars apparatus will have to be regrown from zero.”
“I can remember thinking, truthfully, these words about twenty years ago: ‘That, unfortunately,
the space program is all dressed up – with no place to go’…now you might’a guessed, I don’t
believe that anymore. Now here’s what happened that changed my perspective. About ten
years ago I became part of a team at NASA that develops technologies to utilize resources in
space […] a robotosphere which will grow to have an economic output a million times that of
the United States. Imagine a million Americas in space. Then in just ten more years: America a
Why Mars? From two perspectives I think it’s important…um…exploration is really what separates humans from, from other living, moving “species” and, if, we decide that where we are today is “it”…um – I’m not saying there aren’t things to learn about here on Earth – but it just seems kind of like a big disappointment, that, we’d say “okay we’re here, this is it, we’re done” – you know “let’s just…hang in there, till then end”. Um, it just seems like a not very inspirational, ah, outlook and perspective. And the other piece – which is the scary piece – and um, it’s really risk management. For humans. The uh…I think the probability of a significant event happening on Earth is – is very high. Ah, or – ’scuse – when will it happen? I don’t know when it will happen but I’m pretty certain there will be a catastrophic event and ah it would be nice to have humans living in more than one spot. Um…yeah…I think that’s important. It’s risk management for humans.
Robert Zubrin starts 28 minutes into ‘Destination Mars’ – Frontier Journeys to the Red Planet:
“The greatest hope here is, this proposal that’s been advanced by Dennis Tito, known as Inspiration Mars, to send two people on a Mars fly-by mission, which, will not accomplish very much exploration – except that it will prove that human interplanetary flight is possible. It will thus – as it were – take the dragons off the map…eliminate the paralyzing fear that is preventing NASA from embracing ‘humans to Mars’ and leaving them without basically any goals for their human spaceflight program right now. But furthermore in terms of a private flight as such, see, the two person fly-by is doable probably for less than a billion dollars if done in the private sector – for less than two, really, if done by major contractors.
“I proposed such a mission to Golden, in 1995, but, he passed. But Tito while he doesn’t have a billion dollars to spend, has tens of millions, which is enough to start a fund-raising effort that could do this, which is enough to raise a billion, and – if – they – do – this – mission, they will have sufficient credibility to raise funds from the broad public to fund, um, privately funded human Mars exploration. And, see, there’s seven billion people on this planet, of which a billion live in the advanced sector and of which at least ten percent believe in a positive future in which it is important that humans expand into space. That would be enough to fund the colonization of Mars, if ya had them organized. So in other words the harvest is plentiful but the gatherers are few. And, the Tito vision could actually be the thing that raises the flag high enough to rally the forces to make this possible.”
“I don’t think this can be done for profit – this needs to be done for hope and faith. Okay? Other colonization efforts in the past have been done for that reason. The Pilgrims, the Mormons, the Jews going to Israel – and by the way they were all supported by fund-raising organizations of their colleagues who did not go, but who raised logistics to make it possible for the colonists to go, based on a belief that this was important.”
“I think that we have a game-changer here with respect to ‘humans to Mars’ and the Tito mission. Mars is where the science is, it’s where the science is, it’s where the challenge is, it’s where the future is. It’s where we’ll find out if life developed where it had a reasonable chance to develop. And it’s where we’re going to find out if we can become a spacefaring multi-planet species. It’s the closet planet with all the resources needed to support life and therefore civilization. And this is the challenge that’s been staring NASA in the face basically since the Apollo missions ended. They’ve been frantically looking for, you know, anything to do. And right now we have a human spaceflight program, where, if we ask them, “where are we going to be 10 years from now?” The answer would be “exactly where we are now.” They’re operating with an Apollo scale budget actually…that is, if you took NASA’s average funding, from ’61 to ’73 and you add it all up, converted to today’s money, divided by 13 years, you’d come out with 20 billion a year. NASA’s budget this year is, you know, 17 billion. So it’s a little less, but, it’s not like it’s a factor of four less. Or anything of that sort. So it’s comparable to Apollo levels – and yet we don’t have anything like Apollo-era accomplishments. There are no goals, there is no focus – except, in the robotic program. That’s mission driven. That’s why it accomplishes things.”
“The human spaceflight program is basically constituent driven. It’s a way for NASA to spend money to give to contractors. I’m all for money to go to contractors – because I am a NASA contractor – but, it would be much better if it went to contractors that actually accomplished something.”
“The subject of the debate has everything to do with Mars exploration. ‘Zero Growth’ ideology is antithetical to human expansion into space, and opening the space frontier is completely subversive to Malthusian and related limited resources ideology.”
The planned debate, entitled “Are People the Problem?”, was occasioned by an article that Dr. Cafaro wrote in the Denver Post, arguing that immigration contributes to global warming, because by coming to America, immigrants increase their incomes, and thus their carbon footprints. This, says Dr. Cafaro, must be stopped.
In his anthology “Life on the Brink” (introduction by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, edited by Dr. Cafaro and Eileen Crist) he states that it is not only necessary to cut off immigration to America, but that the U.S. population needs to be reduced to 100 million people. According to Dr. Cafaro, “The last thing the world needs is hundreds of millions of more Americans.”
In addition, Dr. Cafaro requires that the world population be cut down from its current 7 billion to 2 billion, and recommends using the denial of U.S. foreign aid as a method to coerce Third World countries to accept population reduction. In addition, argues Dr. Cafaro in his included essay entitled “Is humanity a cancer upon the Earth?”, economic growth must be ended.
In the same book, contributing author David Foreman, the founder of Earth First and fellow leader of the “Apply the Brakes” anti-growth organization, objects to feminist interference in the family planning movement on the grounds that some feminists have the temerity to insist that a woman’s right to choose also includes the right to choose to have children. He says they have no such right.
This is going to be a significant debate. Dr. Cafaro’s views bring sharply into focus the anti-human and totalitarian implications of the ‘Zero Growth’ movement. In opposing him, Dr. Zubrin will make the case for human creativity and freedom.
|(Copyright: Science Photo Library)|
“…life on the Starship Enterprise may appear almost utopian but the way the ship – indeed the whole Federation is run – is essentially hierarchical. Humanity’s mission to “boldly go” is being undertaken by a quasi-military dictatorship. For a series originally billed by its creator as “wagon train in space”, it is hardly land of the free.”
“Is this really how we want to explore the cosmos and take our culture to the stars?”
“…they have renamed their mission control “mission support”, acknowledging that they are no longer completely in charge.”
“Mars is the test for humanity,” Long says. “It’s the test of our character and, to me, that should be the next destination for the human species – to colonise Mars, to set up a small station and develop it gradually. If we can’t crack Mars, then forget everything else that we have ambitions for.”
“People will have children… and at some point the Mars base breaks out of becoming a base and becomes an actual village – a real society with real people living real lives, with children in schools and community orchestras. All kinds of things that a base commander might think are completely extraneous.”
“Zubrin sees this as a natural, and inevitable, progression from hierarchy to locally accountable democracy and draws parallels with the colonisation of North America. “First you had independence from the West India Company, then ultimately from the British Crown and that’s how life is,” he says. “I think a Mars base may well start out as a bureaucratically structured entity but when you have people living real lives, they’re going to be pushing against the boundaries of that. And if you want to leave the colony, the easiest thing would be to get together with some other people and found additional colonies on Mars.”
“…they will also no longer consider Earth as home. “The whole point is to create new branches of human civilisation,” Zubrin explains. “It’ll have its own dialect, its own literature, own jokes and sense of humour. It’s going to be different, a different culture, and I think that’s good.”