The space race has returned. Harkening back to John F. Kennedy, the 1960s and the American devotion to be the first nation to unshackle themselves from a previously Earth-bound state the United States is once again determined to shed its Earthly bounds and return to space flight. With only three months left in his administration President Obama has renewed his focus towards a goal he first elucidated six years ago: delivering humans to Mars. In a CNN op-ed President Obama reiterated his desire to not only revitalize the U.S. space program but to push that program to new heights, both literally and figuratively.
In the op-ed the President writes that “his administration has already advanced the nation’s space program by revitalizing technology innovation at NASA, extending the life of the International Space Station and creating private-sector jobs in the space industry”. Furthermore, recent scientific discoveries by teams of American scientists as well as past U.S. experience with space travel demonstrate both the progress of the United States in mapping our solar system but also the capabilities of the U.S. space program, said the President. He also remembers the wonder he experienced in watching astronauts return home and what the promise of space flight added to the character of the United States.
“In my first address as President to the American people, I vowed to return science to its rightful place. In our first few months, my administration made the largest single investment in basic research in our history, and I went to the Kennedy Space Center to call for reimagining and reinvigorating our space program to explore more of our solar system and look deeper into the universe than ever…
“This week, we’ll convene some of America’s leading scientists, engineers, innovators and students in Pittsburgh to dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers. Just five years ago, US companies were shut out of the global commercial launch market. Today, thanks to groundwork laid by the men and women of NASA, they own more than a third of it. More than 1,000 companies across nearly all 50 states are working on private space initiatives.
“We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time. Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way. Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station.
“The next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit. I’m excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space. These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we’ll need for the long journey to Mars…
“Someday, I hope to hoist my own grandchildren onto my shoulders. We’ll still look to the stars in wonder, as humans have since the beginning of time. But instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we’ll know that because of the choices we make now, they’ve gone to space not just to visit, but to stay — and in doing so, to make our lives better here on Earth.”
As noted by President Obama in his op-ed a key difference between the race for the Moon and the race for Mars is the participants. As noted by the Washington Post more than 1,000 companies acorss all 50 states arw working on private space initiatives. Some of the more prominent include:
“Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeffrey P. Bezos’s Blue Origin promise suborbital tourist flights within a couple of years. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) SpaceX and Boeing are working toward flying astronauts to the space station. Bigelow Aerospace is building inflatable habitats that could ultimately succeed the station…
“Sierra Nevada Corp., another of NASA’s beneficiaries, just announced that it had signed a deal with the United Nations to fly its first-ever space mission. Earlier this year, Moon Express, which is vying for the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize, received permission to send a robotic lander on the moon, the first commercial company to get such permission from the U.S. government.
“And there have been a proliferation of companies, such as Vector Space Systems and Rocketlab that plan to fly small satellites, some as tiny as a shoebox.”
As can be seen above, the goals of these companies are varied. Yet each in its own way shares the vision of President Obama to push the boundaries of the human species and to once again experience the magnificence and marvel of space travel to solar parts unknown. The human frontier should not be confined to the terra firma of Earth but rather must reach and expand towards the limits of human technology, drive and ambition. And this space experience need not be confined to astronauts. Indeed, it should not, but rather must be expanded to include all those humans who wish to undertake that which necessarily alters their human experience.
Blue Origin wishes to “give people (six at a time) a taste of space with a parabolic, non-orbital, short zero-G flight that doesn’t require space suits, months of rigorous training or virtually anything else besides money – likely lots of money – and a sense of adventure”. In time that experience may be expanded to orbit the Earth and even head away from the Earth; to give those incredulous individuals the opportunity to shatter their worldview and their world. Blue Origin looks to provide those short flights by 2018.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX “was founded with the ultimate goal of helping make humans a multi-planetary species,” said SpaceX’s Phil Larson. SpaceX’s goals essentially mirror those of the President. The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to send an initial crew of 100 settlers to Mars in order to construct a fuel processing facility. This facility would allow the settlers to return to Earth if so desired as well as serve as the establish the next step of a permanent interplanetary transport system. Mars could not only function as an Earth settlement but also as a hub for space travel beyond the Red Planet.
However, there are some problems with these plans. First, as described by President Obama as well as the private space initiatives there remain numerous technical issues which must be addressed and solved in order to make flight to Mars feasible. The steps towards that feasibility have recently been undertaken but much more work remains to be doneover the next 20 years to make the dream a reality. Second, even with technological breakthroughs the trip to Mars could kill you in any number of ways. Third, recent research has found that galactic cosmic ray exposure may cause chronic dementia.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine discovered that exposure to highly energetic charged particles, such as those found in the galactic cosmic rays that will bombard travelers during extended spaceflights to Mars, “causes significant long-term brain damage in test rodents, resulting in cognitive impairments and dementia”. Previously the same researchers had found similar effects present in the shorter-term.
“‘The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts. Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel – such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making. Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life’,” said UCI’s Charles Limoli.
“For the study, rodents were subjected to charged particle irradiation (fully ionized oxygen and titanium) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and then sent to Limoli’s UCI lab.
“Six months after exposure, the researchers still found significant levels of brain inflammation and damage to neurons. Imaging revealed that the brain’s neural network was impaired through the reduction of dendrites and spines on these neurons, which disrupts the transmission of signals among brain cells. These deficiencies were parallel to poor performance on behavioral tasks designed to test learning and memory.
“In addition, the Limoli team discovered that the radiation affected “fear extinction,” an active process in which the brain suppresses prior unpleasant and stressful associations, as when someone who nearly drowned learns to enjoy water again.
“‘Deficits in fear extinction could make you prone to anxiety,’ Limoli said, ‘which could become problematic over the course of a three-year trip to and from Mars.’
“Partial solutions are being explored, Limoli noted. Spacecraft could be designed to include areas of increased shielding, such as those used for rest and sleep. However, these highly energetic charged particles will traverse the ship nonetheless, he added, ‘and there is really no escaping them.'”
In other words, President Obama, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and others want to generate mental illness in space travelers in the short-term in order to accelerate the need to colonize Mars, only to cause further mental illness in those who travel to Mars and doom that settlement from the beginning, leaving nowhere for the human species to survive.
Maybe those who claim President Obama is actively destroying humanity were right.
Have a nice day.