Can we ever be safe in space

Foundation for The Future, virtual events

Science fiction, which is perhaps more popular than it has ever been, would lead us to believe that space colonization is just a matter of time. The reality, however, is not as promising. The environment that awaits us outside of Earth’s atmosphere, even when subjected to our most advanced technology, is brutal and forbidding.

There is a long list of dangers associated with space that are impossible to deny. Space is a vacuum in which oxygen and protection from extreme temperatures must be provided. The distances that must be overcome and the spacecraft that they demand tax human endurance and ingenuity. Radiation, unchecked by the atmosphere that we enjoy on our planet, is not kind to the human body. These factors cause space colonization to be impractical and, if some are to be believed, impossible.

However, when one looks back over human history, there exists a long line of hostile frontiers that humans have found the courage and creativity to overcome. None of our present environments were taken easily. I would argue that space should be the next to be conquered.

Space Demands a New Mindset
As humans living in the twenty-first century, it is easy to see ourselves as a species well adapted to life on Earth. Our survival and dominance, however, is the result of thousands of years of trial and error.

While most humans would consider themselves to occupy a safe place at the top of the food chain, not all scientists believe that it is correct to include us among wolves, killer whales, and other “apex predators.” Our dominance within the natural environment is not a result of our natural abilities, but rather comes from the development of tools and a network of community.

Ingenuity, intelligence, and commitment have allowed humans to master all of Earth’s terrain, from the loftiest peaks to the darkest depths. Why should we believe that space presents us with an unsolvable riddle?

Subduing Space Can’t Wait
The comforts that we presently enjoy were not realized overnight. The commerce that drives our economies has been evolving since the earliest days of civilization. The agricultural systems that provide our food have been evolving even longer. Our current way of life took thousands of years to develop. As we confront the challenges of space, we don’t have the luxury of such a timeline.

When it comes to building a future in space, now is the time to act. We have decades, not centuries, to establish ourselves beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, we must get creative. Or perhaps it is better to say “recreative.”

To succeed in subduing the landscapes beyond the planet will require us to recreate in space the most effective components of the current infrastructure on Earth. We rely on agriculture, industry, communication, and transportation. We will need all of those same provisions in space and we will need them sooner than later.

My work with Foundation for the Future has brought me in contact with experts from around the world who agree that accelerating our movement into space is not only possible, but beneficial in countless ways. Now is the time to develop the critical infrastructure to enable it, the investment tools to finance it, and a workforce to power it.

We Must Embrace the Next Phase
The next phase of human expansion has begun and space is the destination. The twentieth-first century has already witnessed inspiring advancements in space. From SpaceShipOne to the Spirit Rover to Inspiration4, challenges are being confronted and overcome. As our history has shown, humans are drawn to seeking out and subduing new frontiers. Now is the time to commit ourselves to the task of making space our next success story.

Can we ever be safe in space? The choice is up to us.

Tim Chrisman is the founder and executive director of Foundation for The Future; author of Humanity in Space, a look at the future of the second century of human spaceflight; a retired Army Special Operations officer, and former CIA Space Department Officer. The Foundation for the Future is an education and advocacy nonprofit focused on promoting the space economy by developing critical infrastructure to enable it, investment tools to finance it, and a workforce to power it. Its work includes bringing together industry leaders from the government and the private sector through virtual events.

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