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Man's Future in Space
« le: avril 26, 2021, 04:21:19 pm »
Alors que l'astronaute national (Français) et twittophile Thomas Pesquet vient de rejoindre l'ISS, il était annoncé qu'il embarquerait avec lui non seulement un blob, mais aussi un livre de SF - Dune.

Dune dans l'Espace, c'est Spice.

Cela m'a également rappelé une non-fiction de Frank Herbert à propos du futur de l'homme dans l'espace, texte rédigé à l'occasion du premier alunissage, en 1969, et retranscrit dans la somme de Tim O'Reilly "the Maker of Dune" (1987) (ouvrage dont nous parlions il y a york sur le Blog )


Man's Future in Space

Measured against what is about to happen, the Apollo modules are our horse and buggy in space-primitive, but a reality of our time, which will open the door on a very different tomorrow.

If you ask "Should we be in space?" you ask a nonsense question.

We are in space.

We will be in space.

Mankind will become a creature of space.

About the only thing that could prevent this would be the total destruction of Earth, at present our only space platform. But our inexorable movement into space changes even that problem. The political reality of a humankind dispersed throughout the solar system presents a far different picture from that which we face as I write this-all of our eggs in one basket. No politico-economic system now being practiced on Earth can evade awareness of that fact. Not if the proponents of that politico-economic system wish their system to survive.

Which begs the question of communism versus capitalism.

Neither system will survive as we know it in space. Communism, which creates an all-powerful bureaucratic aristocracy, cannot survive without high walls around its population. There are no walls in space. Managed capitalism (which is really what we are talking about in the United States) cannot survive unless it controls the lines of energy and materials. No such controls are possible in space.

What we will see can be compared to what mankind faced on hostile frontiers throughout history-a kind of cooperation-by-necessity, an inescapable mutual interdependence for survival. You help your neighbor raise his barn because tomorrow you may need his help.

Our situation at present displays many similarities to conditions faced at the beginning of the steam age. The questions and pronouncements of that historical period give you a sense of déjà vu:

"If God had intended man to go sixty miles an hour ... "

"The destruction of the family by these insensate machines cannot be tolerated!" (A Welsh minister in 1841)

"The displacement of population brought about by these unholy devices are such as no civilized people can permit." (A speech in the British Commons, 1838)

The real questions of those times were, as they are today, ones of politics and economics, not of science and engineering. The questions of politics and economics are always addressed after the fact. Science and engineering go about their business much like a force of nature.

With hindsight, these are the things we know today about the steam age: steam allowed us to do things we could not do before-such as pumping water from deep mines, milling hard metals, and moving heavy objects rapidly over long distances or short ones.

Steam also raised enormous political and economic issues that have not yet been resolved because we moved from steam into other energies that did much the same things but with more sophistication.

Reading the history of those times you cali. see the currents of these times. Many new people rose to positions of great power. Old power centers either adapted to the new conditions or they dissolved. Tremendous leverage gravitated to those who could employ creative imagination to control the new knowledge.

The political issues inherent in this are obvious. The forces of conservatism (which in this sense really defines the status quo) will fight to maintain their present privilegeseven if this means delaying our movement into space. In this arena of "pure-power politics" there is no escaping the fact that whoever controls space controls Earth. But the control of the space around Earth does not carry with it control of space beyond such a sphere. That is too simplistic a viewpoint. The movement outward will continue because it represents also a movement of escape from restrictions-no matter how you define restrictions.

What then can we predict about the aftermath of the Apollo 11 landing and our other tentative outreachings into the airless void that surrounds our lonely space platform?

In the field of politics:
  • People will move beyond the immediate control of any central government just as they did in the westward migrations across the American plains, and the northwestward migrations of the Germanic tribes into what are now Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
  • Some of the migrations into space will never be brought back into a central fold.
  • Just as those Germanic tribes set a pattern for individual freedom and representative government, which helped to shape the British (and the U.S.) systems, the new migrations will once again reform social and governmental structures.

In the field of economics (which can never be separated from politics):
  • New products will appear just because they can be manufactured only in the high vacuum of space.
  • Familiar products will be manufactured in space at less cost and higher quality because of available abundant energy and the vacuum. This is especially true in electronics, metallurgy, and precision milling of metals.
  • Cheaper energy in space will open enormous new areas for human habitation-although there still is some question whether electrical energy generated in space can be transmitted back to Earth without unacceptable damage to the planet's atmospheric shielding.

In the fields of medicine and genetics:
  • Cheap cryogenic storage of whole people and "spare parts" will make profound changes in attitudes toward life and survival.
  • Many medicines will be manufactured cheaper and of higher quality in space because of easily available sterile conditions and isolation facilities.
  • Experiments with dangerous disease cultures will occur in safer isolation and, therefore, will become more common, leading to new achievements in disease control.
  • Exposure of human reproductive cells to the heavier radiation loads of space will ignite a much greater mutation rate-most of which will be lethal or sterile. But those who survive with improved space adaptation characteristics will insure a wide divergence from what we now consider to be the human norm. Our descendants in space may look nothing at all like Earthbound humans.

At this moment, there is really no such thing as a space industry in terms of what we can expect to see by the year 2000. As the economic advantages of this outward movement become clearer to existing industry, as new inventions spread the base of "who can operate in space," that outward movement will become explosive. Then we will see a true space industry. Finally, something should be said about pure science. There is no doubt that off-planet scientific observations will add enormously to our store of practical knowledge; every advance of pure science in the past has had this effect. We can only guess at some of the consequences.

But there will be new materials made possible because of what we learn in space. And a more sophisticated understanding of astronomy and other spacial relationships may generate new ways of moving humans and/or materials across the void.