Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The New Space Race

When we marvel at the latest shots of the Rings of Saturn or the surface of Mars, we're not unlike the Victorian public marvelling at the Great Exhibition, dreaming of a technically-advanced future that lay just round the corner. They couldn't know that the industrial revolution that gave rise to the exhibition would also give rise to two world wars. Like the visitors to the exhibition, what we're shown is the positive side: the wonder, the courage, the ingenuity.

Until now, that is. These days, billionaires seem to be blasting off into space all over the place. The mainstream media sell it as just the sort of thing these larger-than-life characters get up to. Space tourism, it seems, is about to kick off. Something else to add to the bucket-list - if you can afford it.

All very jolly. Okay, it's a bit controversial but not that much. If you want to do business in space it's the obvious place to start. I must admit, seeing Branson and Bezos in their spaceships I couldn't help but be reminded of Clive Sinclair driving around in his C-5. But, in a way, that's what it's all about: setting up a new sideshow in the society of the spectacle.


What's not dwelt on is that the Martian landscapes we see when landers and orbiters relay pictures back to earth could well be turned into quarries worked by robot bulldozers or even test ranges for new WMDs. Space is a free-marketeer's dream. If past experience is anything to go on, when we discover a pristine environment we almost invariably go on to trash it. Once you're up there there's going to be no original people to displace, fewer competitors, no 'red tape' and no inconvenient public to protest against what you're doing. Elon Musk's SpaceX has already said that it doesn't intend to recognise international law on Mars.

Here on earth, as things stand, it's becoming obvious that it's impossible to deal with the climate crisis and continue with a growth based economy. Space, though, is potentially lucrative. Jeff Bezos has said, 'We need to take all the heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space, and keep earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.' Behind this positive spin there is the reality that money is power. In the not-too-distant future it may be more easy for entrepreneurs to make their money in space, money that will serve to maintain into the future the power they currently enjoy here on earth. They see space as their best chance to continue with business as usual.

This is the new space race. It's nothing to do with the limits of exploration and everything to do with establishing economic control of the solar system's resources. Again, in the not-to-distant future, we might even see private robot-wars in space as corporations try to stake their claims to mineral-rights, planets and asteroids. I don't think this is far-fetched. After all, in the eighteenth century, the East India Company came to rule large areas of India and exercise military power there.

I'm sure the entrepreneurs see all this very clearly. There's nothing to stop them. And the winners will control the earth.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. There's nothing to stop them and and yet it occurs to me how seductive their illusion of control can be, especially after just finishing watching:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3leTaf2Txw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UePpB9Qatnw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWA7GtDmNFU

    and reading:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PZMGYPqs0Q

    https://allpoetry.com/poem/8514323-Nova-by-Robinson-Jeffers

    You've given me much to think about today. It's a good day for a long walk in the woods so I can get out of my mind and into my heart (-:

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    1. Thanks for the links. I've always really liked Werner Herzog. He did a space film, The Wide Blue Yonder, which I quite like.

      I go on walks with similar intentions. I either succeed or find I have thoughts spinning round in my head. If the latter, I stop, give myself a good talking to and proceed (hopefully)more peacefully.

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  2. How the early explorers were admired and applauded! If only it had been knows what the ultimate outcome would be. I don't think it's far fetched either that in a few decades' time it will be happening again.

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    1. You're right. Our initial steps into new places are usually a source of wonder. Then the rot sets in.

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  3. I put a long post on early this morning and now I just can't find it - it seems to have disappeared off the face of my computer. It is so frustrating and I can't do it again. Regarding the death in the village I have details straight from the hors's mouth so to speak. TFE actually commented on my post - it was loovely to be in touch again but I couldn't get back to him. It is all ttrying to say the leaast. And also I left a note saying I will run of that Covid poster once you have fitted my new catrtridge for me.

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  4. I enjoyed your post. I have mixed feelings about going into space. I think it is good as long as our own planet is not forgotten or neglected. It has always been man's nature to explore and discover, at first on earth and now in space. I do think it is important to explore space. We can only imagine how what is discovered will have an effect on our future. The sad part of it all is that we have already created a large amount of "space junk" caused by man that is orbiting around up there. Can't we figure out how to do anything without making a mess?

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    1. It seems not. One thing that bothers me is that if all our heavy industry, etc. is moved into space, ordinary people on earth will have even less control over the way things are than they do now.

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  5. That's all very well, but where's my Amazon parcel?

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  6. It's all quite worrying in lots of ways. Why can't these billionaires use their money to preserve the planet we've got instead of planning to exploit other planets. (And yes the quote from Bezos about putting heavy industry on Mars can be seen as a way of preserving earth, but that's not the way it shoud be done!)

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    1. Exactly. And if everything we need is provided by an oligarchy who fetch it all to us from space we are powerless.

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Walking up the Hill

 I went for a walk up the hill in front of our house today and took a few photos!