Charlie Stross has a great essay up about the futility of Space Colonization:
This is not to say that interstellar travel is impossible; quite the contrary. But to do so effectively you need either (a) outrageous amounts of cheap energy, or (b) highly efficient robot probes, or (c) a magic wand. And in the absence of (c) you’re not going to get any news back from the other end in less than decades. Even if (a) is achievable, or by means of (b) we can send self-replicating factories and have them turn distant solar systems into hives of industry, and more speculatively find some way to transmit human beings there, they are going to have zero net economic impact on our circumstances (except insofar as sending them out costs us money).
He does, however make a strong and pertinent distinction between Space Exploration and Space Colonization, the former being relatively easy, cheep and doable (since we are doing it and have been for the last fifty years)as opposed to the latter, which is nearly impossible, (whatever Gene Roddenberry had to say on the matter to the contrary). He also makes the point that the practical walking, working and moving about in space should be done by robot probes and satellites, a notion to which I heartily agree.
The news about the spot of bother on the International Space Station this week got sidelined, what with Paris Hilton having a courtroom meltdown and A dozen Republican Would-be-Kings shootting themselves in the foot over immigration. But if it hadn’t been for a couple of computers, we would have had a lot of dead Astronauts and an inoperable Space Station hovering above our heads. Putting people’s lives in the hands of computers is silly, criminal and wrong. Charlie Stross also points this out, that a manned mission to An extra-solar planet, given the current state of technology, might be considered a crime against humanity, given the horrible conditions they would be subjected to for decades.
There will always be a romantic idea about going to the Moon or Mars and maybe, just to go there and come back would be a worthwhile endeavor but living in Outer Space, is foolish and deadly. Besides, we can learn more from one robot probe on the moon than a hundred moon walking monkeys.
Please, won’t you think about the monkeys?
Link via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.