Boldly going nowhere

Global pandemic. Race riots in the US as its unacknowledged legacy of slavery, white supremacy and race-based murder comes back to bite. But what frightened me most last week was the SpaceX launch on Saturday.

Back in the day I used to be a science fiction geek, and I still keep up. I wanted to be an astronaut. I read all the greats during my teens and 20s, was an avid viewer of Star Trek through all its iterations (I’ve even watched ALL episodes of Discovery and Picard – more on that another time) and even suffered through most of Babylon 5. I lost faith when I became fully aware of the stupidity of (some) humans, and of how ill-advised it would be for us to set out to truly explore space. Let’s keep the destruction local to our own planet, people. Until we sort out our relationship with this one, let’s not go where our irresponsible behaviour might unleash something worse than ecological breakdown, climate catastrophe or nuclear holocaust, on a galactic scale.

So Saturday was my worst nightmare. Borne out by the patriotic fervour of Murican bombast. We were told again and again how this was a triumph for Murica. Never mind that Trumpy has eviscerated NASA because it kept pointing out the error of his climate strategy, or lack of one. Never mind that NASA’s astronauts were heading off to the INTERNATIONAL Space Station (where they neglected social distancing rules on arrival). Never mind that commerce has had to step in to save Murican face, and we now have the egotist that is Musk running in the Murican space race. Musk, who has given up on this planet and set his sights on Mars.

And, clincher; the apogee of this event, we were told by the over-excited representative from SpaceX, was that the best that this moment – this seminal, historic voyage – could offer was that some kid might be inspired to become the next Musk, or Bezos. Yep, more tax averse technocrats is what we want, apparently.

It was bad enough when we had national space programmes, run by people who answered to elected officials. As more nations compete and more commercial interests become involved, who will get to decide who leaves our orbit to become ambassadors for Earth? The nature of the experiments and studies performed? Do we really want to leave billionaires in charge? Do we want commerce to set the agenda for space exploration?

I suppose the good that could come out of this is that space becomes the destination for all neolibs with ambition. We can jettison them off once a year. And when they’re all gone, things might get better down here on Earth and we might have a chance of cleaning up our home without the kids messing it up again.

ps – the image I’ve chosen to illustrate this blog is a bit tangential but it represents all that I still love about the genre


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