Monday, January 29, 2007

Incorporating Space into Our Economic Sphere of Influence

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at the World Economic Forum, January 26, 2007. The entire speech is worth reading - with your indulgence I'll skip to the conclusion ...
I would like to leave you with a final thought as to what might happen if we do not explore space, if we do not follow the cap we tossed over the wall in the 1960s. Last month in the journal Science, researchers examining the primordial material returned by NASA's Stardust space probe found that some of that material could not have come from the Kuiper Belt in the outer reaches of our solar system, but instead could only have come from our sun's core. Some of that material was even older than our own sun. The history of life on Earth is the history of extinction events, with evidence for some five major such events in the history of the Earth. The last of these occurred approximately 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs that dominated the Earth for over 160 million years suffered a catastrophic extinction. It is believed that this event was caused by a giant asteroid which struck Earth in the Gulf of Mexico, triggering tsunamis, tectonic shifts and radically changing Earth's climate.

The brief history of humans is next to nothing compared to the history of other life on Earth, and even less so compared to the age of our solar system or of the universe. Our species hasn't been around long enough to have experienced a cataclysmic extinction event. But they will occur, whether we are ready for them or not.

In the end, space exploration is fundamentally about the survival of the species, about ensuring better odds for our survival through the promulgation of the human species. But as we do it, we will also ensure the prosperity of our species in the economic sense, in a thousand ways. Some of these we can foresee, and some we cannot. Who could claim that he or she would have envisioned the Boeing 777, after seeing the first Wright Flyer? And yet one followed the other in the blink of an historical eye.

For this and many other economic and scientific reasons, we must explore what is on the other side of that wall, walk in the footprints of Neil Armstrong, and make that next giant leap for mankind.
Inspiring words. Yet words are useless without action. Have patience, settle down, do what you can where you can. The future is built in incremental steps, paying attention to details, and doing what needs to be done.

Respectfully Submitted,
Brian Dunbar

Minor aside - SpaceRef decorated their post with this graphic


If the future looks like the lobby of a mainframe computer center I'm going to be cross.
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