Watching SpaceX’s Crew Dragon launch off to the International Space Station (ISS) a fortnight ago, I couldn’t help but think that I was born too soon. It was a celebration for humankind but still, I had that nagging thought of seeing the promised land but ultimately never setting foot. There was explicitly a greater and grander plan for the launch, yes, it was SpaceX’s first manned mission to the ISS. But it signifies something greater, a unifying mission for humanity in our lifetime, colonizing Mars. In the longterm, exploring the universe.
We are the middle children of history,
Born too soon to explore the cosmos,
And too late to explore the earth,
Our frontier is the human mind,
Religion is the ocean we must cross.
Exploring the Earth (and Science)
Other than the depths of the oceans and remote parts of the Amazon and far-flung reaches of the poles, much of the planet lies within reach. Obviously, if there is enough incentive. Not to belittle the value that these treasure chests of the earth still have to give us but it’s arguably no longer at the scale of the pioneer explorers. Even with all their controversy, they united branches of humanity separated by tens of millennia. There still is much to learn in the field of science and psychology but as Newton put it we have been standing on the shoulders’ of giants. Ideas and contraptions once novel are now interwoven into every fabric of modern life, each costing entire love and lifetimes on the millstones of progress. Someone else discovered, invented and conjectured the Laws of Mathematics, the Periodic Table and all the other Scientific Laws. We reap the fruits.
It’s only those at the bleeding edge of their fields, usually in the frozen tundras, sleeping the grounds of research labs and observatories, often without the financial rewards compared to other more lucrative ventures, who will die often unsung but go to the heavens to be reunited with the spirits of the pioneers.
If you are reading this, you were definitely born into a world already connected through the internet, scrolling through Twitter with what was decades ago could have been the most advanced technology on the planet. There still is much that we still do not understand fully but despite the thrills of scientific discovery, there’s still a regret that it could be too little too late. It’s like getting into a trial for a breakthrough treatment on your deathbed. Did it really have to take this long?
Born Too Soon To Explore The Cosmos
Back to #OccupyMars. During the pandemic of 2020, the fact that humanity has always been courting annihilation, like a circus performer juggling all sorts of existential threats while balancing on a unicycle, finally came to the mainstream. It’s not just pandemics, climate change, meteors (a colossal injection of energy that wiped of the dinosaurs), the collapse of the fragile food chain or man-made lunacy like nuclear armageddon. It comes as no surprise that we are yet to interact with extra-terrestrial life. Any civilization that is imprisoned on one planet is the surest path to extinction. Leaving Earth is like Shawshank Redemption but with skyscraper-sized rockets, megaJoules of energy (required to pay back the “debt” owed to gravity), billions of dollars and the best of what humanity is able to do.
To safeguard the progress humankind has made after branching off from the higher apes (often in the jungle and zoos but having an uncanny resemblance to homo sapiens) we must colonize not only the moon but other planets. And NASA and SpaceX (there are other contractors but Elon is awesome, okay, Boeing too) have set their sights on the Moon in the short-term (The Artemis program) and Mars in the medium-term.
However, there is no return policy on being born that would have hopefully been redeemed in 2300. Born into a world where it has already been done, travelling through portals to edges of infinity (whether in this universe or the multiverse). It’s a clarion call to get off our asses and build a better tomorrow, a future far in the horizon. Being born on the roadside to the future, we must clasp the baton tightly and run with everything we’ve got, suffer if we must. It may mean toiling our whole lives isn’t enough to be a footnote in the future. That’s only for the lucky, the rest of humanity, disappear into the abyss of lost memories, it’s like they never existed. But in the meantime, court your existential angst by reading science fiction (of the Asimov variety) and watching Star Trek and Rick and Morty see a future that could have been. A galaxy-trotting future. After all, we should be ashamed to die unless we’ve scored a victory for mankind, ultimately that’s all that matters. Everything else has been done before.
Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring–not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive… If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds.Carl Sagan