1968 was a tumultuous year for America with the untimely deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. It was the year of demonstrations and assassinations, violent protests and volatile activism. The following year, as Bryan Adams sings, was the best year of our lives. The summer of 1969 brought a much needed respite from the violence of the previous year. 1969 also brought us Woodstock and the first Led Zepplin album. The first message is sent over ARPANET, the forerunner of the internet; nothing was beyond our grasp…not even the moon. On July 24, 1969 Apollo 11 returned safely to earth following the first successful moon landing. The astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr, were hailed as heroes and the mission was considered a major accomplishment in space exploration.
NASA’s final shuttle launch of the Atlantis was on July 21, 2011 and brought an end to the unmatched trail blazing achievements in the United States’ era of human spaceflight.
Apollo 17 was the eleventh and final manned mission of the American Apollo Space Program, launched on December 7, 1972. The astronauts made three trips in the lunar rover to take pictures and collect rocks. The astronauts also left many scientific devices that would continue to report information about the moon. The astronauts lifted off the moon on December fourteenth. Just before leaving, they placed a metal sign on the surface. The sign was to remain forever.
It said: “Here man completed his first exploration of the moon December 1972 [A.D.] May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.”
Spirit of Peace? At what point in our history have Americans, or any other country for that matter, been involved in peaceful exploration? I struggled with finding the right angle to delineate the pros and cons of space travel and exploration. As a devoted Star Trek fan that began in my mother’s womb with a not so bloated William Shatner to present day Net Flix streaming of Jean-Luc Picard consistently upholding the Prime Directive, a part of me longs for the romantic ideal of going boldly where no man (or woman has gone before). As a dear friend of mine so eloquently puts it, “Leave the earth, leave its relentless pull. Be totally free, and then look back at the world for the glorious and tranquil gemstone that it is. And then turn my head the other way. Looking outwards. Stunned by the thousands of stars…”
The following conversation took place in the form of written correspondence in a quiet coffee shop in Bowling Green, Ky on a hot July morning and a pub in Belfast Ireland on a rainy evening during an early dinner rush.
It’s a travesty that we cannot do that—be totally free in our space exploration. Humanity remains stuck in its cradle. We should be free.
As a species we yearn for discovery; to push new frontiers, and take that one small step. And then another—to always be reaching out. I want to reach out and embrace the stars and their hidden worlds. I yearn for that day of contact. When we discover what we really are, where our place is. This mirrors my own life, I long to discover, to break new boundaries.
They are out there, Mary. Waiting for us to leave the cradle, to join them.
That is one thing I truly believe.
But do we embrace the different thing we find. Or do we try to make them conform to us. I think…as a species, our instinct is to conquer. Look at the British and French and their conquering the Native Americans, the Spanish Conquistadors and the Mayans. Both our countries are guilty of “westernizing” the middle East—it’s not merely wars to procure oil fields. We insist they dress like us, treat their women the same, and worship the same.
I want to discover with an open mind and an open heart. And be in awe! True explorers come in peace. To do otherwise would be the act of a fool, and would be our downfall.
But you will only discover what you want; you will want to find that which mirrors what you already believe…and you won’t be happy with it. Do you want to discover that which challenges your beliefs….or that which validates them? IF they exist and we find them…we will try to make them like us as we feel we are superior. I hope when we CAN find them, we have learned that not everyone can be like us…nor are their resources and capabilities ours to take. Nor do they exist to validate what we already know and believe. We aren’t there yet. And as we destroy our earth, depleting it of resources we have no plan to replenish, as we for centuries have conquered weaker civilizations, taking what does not belong to us…we try and set the stage to take our eventual interference into other solar systems and galaxies under the guise of “peaceful exploration” when we have yet to even admit our own mistakes in resource mismanagement and the plundering of other cultures.
There are civilisations millions of years ahead of us. Just imagine it!
And many others will be primitive, too! It doesn’t take much of an imagination to know we’ll subdue them…or be enslaved by those that are millions of years ahead of us!
Think of our place in the universe, we are a grain of sand, just one grain, in the entire Sahara Desert. There is so much to learn, and there are those that would show us. I am 100 percent convinced that life is abundant in the universe. Imagine if we found just one bacterium on a meteorite from Mars. Just one. That would be proof of life on TWO planets within our speck of sand. And that would mean, statistically….well….it would be staggering.
We are not meant to be alone. Maybe we can’t develop fully on our own. Maybe we NEED help to change our ways and evolve further. On a practical side, space has led to many medical advances. They don’t just go out and fix dishes on satellites, you know. The argument will always be that the money spent on space could do better going elsewhere. I understand that argument, but i think we NEED to expand the knowledge we have, to find new solutions. Just imagine if we could harness the energy from the Sun! We should explore our local star and see what we can obtain from it. The energy from the Sun could fuel everything we’d ever need, solve all of the world’s energy problems. If only we knew how–all that energy flowing into space. There will be those out there who know how to harness such free energy. It makes logical sense for our own survival as a species that we go looking for that knowledge.
Stellar energy is the logical solution. The power is out there all the time 24/7. There MUST be a way; we just don’t understand it yet. We’re not quite there. But look at our advances. Look at iPhones for example! Look back 20 years, see how we were then. I envisage that a civilisation a million years ahead of us, beyond war and beyond waste. We are still in our cradle, but we MUST take our first steps out and look further. There is just so much out there. We can’t blow the opportunity. If we stay put, we shall destroy ourselves eventually. There is science and physics out there that would appear to be magic to us, impossible achievements beyond our wildest dreams. Should we look inward and not take this chance to truly discover?
It’s our DUTY to go out into space and advance our species. Once we were sea creatures, but we tentatively peeked out to the shore and one day we walked upon it. Then we discovered fire, our first energy, and we learned to walk upright and build things. Then great ships were launched and sailed the seas. Human traits meant that we did some bad things along the way, sure, but in evolutionary terms our species is that of a toddler. Petulant, raw, needing moulding and grooming.
Ok… But why not search and develop here? Have we depleted all research capabilities?
Or better, shouldn’t we rectify our mistakes in plundering and devastation and resource depletion here first? Can we rise above the damage we have inflicted? If we are not alone and if they are there and are way more advanced, why have they not sought us out. Do you fear being enslaved or in a war?
Answer this please. I need answers…I need to be convinced we won’t seek and destroy. The best indicator of future behavior…is past behavior, you know.
They may well have found us. Perhaps we are still too immature to be introduced to the rest of the community of the universe. We might be like ants to them, still. Perhaps there is a rule that they don’t show themselves to us until we are ready. Who can tell, really? It’s all speculation. But my head AND my heart scream out to me that they are out there. In numbers. I just FEEL it. I love it, science with soul!! No, I don’t fear enslavement. Any civilisation that has advanced a million years beyond our own, maybe only a few thousand years, would have left the practice of war long, long behind. Or else they would have destroyed themselves by now. I don’t buy into the whole space invaders thing. And we can achieve so much more in space than we can do limited by the gravity and resources of the earth. It’s all there waiting for us to discover it. If nothing else, the discovery of other worlds and civilisations would be just what we need to realise our true place in the universe. Hey, maybe that would make our species grow up. Just what we need! Yes, there is a lot of romanticism, that’s something you can’t get away from. But we are explorers by nature, and we are developing. The two go hand in hand. It’s instinctive, scientific enquiry will always be there. I live with the hope we will find them. You don’t…you can’t find hope that we will explore in peace and with a desire for what they can teach us?
Hope? But hope can’t exist unless there is opposition to it. And I am not sure we, as savage humans, are ready to go beyond that hope.
© Mary Taylor