How can we prepare our world so that breakthroughs such as an energy revolution won’t be co-opted by corporate or governmental cultures who mainly want to dominate other cultures? Who is providing a vision of how humankind could work together to create an exciting inspiring cooperative and more peaceful future?
One group is indeed working on that, from the standpoint of seeking global cooperation on programs aimed at space travel and eventual human settlements elsewhere in our solar system. NASA chartered the Aerospace Technology Working Group (ATWG) in 1990 “to facilitate dialogue between government, academia and industry, and “support the development of knowledge and wisdom that will nurture living systems on earth and in outer space in a way that supports economic, social, and ecological sustainability for the future.” ATWG in the post-911 world sees a lofty purpose for going into space—to restore balance to our civilization.
The roots of the group began decades ago. Kenneth J. Cox, now head of ATWG, was a young NASA engineer working in the Apollo program and in 1970 was part of the team that guided Apollo 13 safely back home after one of its oxygen tanks exploded en route to the moon. He recalls that tense and uncertain time, during which he learned what men and women can do when filled with courage and purpose. “It was collaboration, intensity, action and the integration of science and spirit that brought the Apollo 13 astronauts back safely…” Cox sees those same qualities as contributing to the best of human accomplishments across millennia. His pivotal experience with the Apollo program led him and others to form the ATWG.
One result of the group’s collaboration is an optimistic newly published anthology (www.apogeebooks.com) Beyond Earth: The Future of Humans in Space, edited by Bob Krone, Ph.D. and with a foreword by Dr. Edgar Mitchell. The 40 authors of the book are from diverse backgrounds but agree that human exploration of outer space could help stop the cycles of war on earth. The thinking is that when humans work together to defend their planet against asteroids and comets whose orbits cross earth’s orbit, for example, they may learn to collaborate on other large issues.
If it gets widely read, the book’s concepts could revive public interest in one of the most challenging frontiers remaining—the one hanging above our heads. For example, one of the authors, Howard Bloom, posed a research question which asks how to create in the wider community a new sense of purpose and goals—by showing the majesty of a new frontier that humankind can move toward with the zest that makes life worth living.
Developing “human capital” is one theme of Beyond Earth, as is the integration of music, art, the visions of children as tomorrow’s space people, ethics, law and the lessons of history. Some of the 36 chapters are down-to-earth technical and others soar. Associate editor Langdon Morris poses a research question of how to solve both the mysteries of the universe that tempt us from without and the mysteries that lie within human knowledge, compassion and consciousness.
If you see the humanitarian advantages of putting humans into space, consider forming a local, workplace or Internet discussion group around this book. An appendix to the book makes that easy, with research questions and hypotheses in 29 categories. For instance, the “self destruction” category points out that Chapter 3 of Beyond Earth introduces global leaders’ views that while military relationships dominate the political agenda on earth, the lure of human space pioneering can still deliver us from our dangerous propensity for self-destruction. The question is how global society can build on this leadership consensus. It looks like today’s outmoded diplomatic framework— balancing power and terror—won’t cut it for our military, economic, academic, industrial complexes operating in space.
Other topics introduced in Beyond Earth include artificial—and extraterrestrial—intelligence, spaceports and proposed developments on the moon. ATWG authors Elliott Maynard and Sharon Tanemura Maynard suggest fresh or synergistic technologies could result from the push into space. They also advocate creating new ecosystems for Space Oases, an oasis being a small community in a pleasant environment with gracious living where space people can recharge their personal batteries. According to the book, space migration would give humankind a chance to create an Island of Excellence to showcase ways that our civilization could thrive.
Aside from the small typeface in Beyond Earth, my only criticism is that the rocket scientists’ vision of future energy technology is uninspired unless you think nearly bankrupt economies on earth can go out and mine asteroids or rely on mining the moon for Helium 3. The Maynards did suggest synergistic hybrid technologies and investigation of the unconventional MagneGas process, but no one mentions zero-point energy, as far as I could see in a quick read. That area of speculation is not the goal of the ATWG book anyway.
Rocket scientists think “space solar power” when they hear “energy from space.” Solar power collected in space on a satellite and beamed down to earth sounds grand, but it also uses radiation technology (beaming microwaves through the atmosphere to the earth) instead of technologies that employ the non-destructive invisible contracting half of nature’s cycle. Students of Walter Russell’s or Viktor Schauberger’s concepts know the difference and why it is crucial to radically change the way we work with energy and other technologies. Throughout the universe, expansion and contraction are continually taking place, but our mainstream energy science only works with the explosive/ radiative half of the cycle, according to New Energy Science proponents.
Burning biofuels are seen by some Beyond Earth authors as the next step. However, other than Dr. Ruggero Maria Santilli’s nonpolluting MagneGas, burning anything, even hydrogen, depletes our oxygen.
Despite my prejudice for small-is-beautiful local clean energy inventions that hold promise for tapping into an ambient energy source day or night, I experienced Beyond Earth as containing depth of thinking, and inspired writing: “Space is the unlimited mirror of our own limited selves…. It reminds us to never, ever forget the search for enduring truths that transform the dully mundane into transcendent inspiration and hope.”
The concluding chapter of the book sums up the authors’ collective belief that humans living in space will be forced to deal with paradigm shifts in the physical, biological, technological, psychological, social, religious and political areas, and in so doing will enrich earthly civilization.
Meanwhile a few brilliant individuals outside academia have invested decades educating themselves about how the universe works and uncovering a very different, unified theory. One such bright light, Nassim Haramein whom I wrote about a year ago in this magazine, gave a workshop in Oregon recently (His long-awaited DVD was set for released in July.). One of his comments at the workshop was that creating technologies which manipulate gravity and levitation forces would be easy for a civilization which understands the geometry of space.
For a civilization whose official science is not quite there yet, let’s see what a space bureaucracy has to say about the future of space technologies. Plans for dealing with a frontier reflect society’s values. Years ago President John F. Kennedy’s administration saw space exploration as a national spending priority. Today, NASA officials are talking about privatizing space travel and luring corporations’ research laboratories to the moon by opening up moon real estate to private ownership.
Recently NASA Ames Research Center director Simon P. Worden gave a speech (Los Angeles, May 7, 2006, audio transcribed by SpaceRef). Worden said it will take at least a couple of decades to expand human settlement out into the solar system and he didn’t know how NASA can keep up the necessary level of support for that. Space tourists themselves might not keep up the level of interest and funding, he said. Historically, new frontiers were not opened by wealthy tourists.
If not space tourism, what then? Worden believes space science could be done with privately funded observatories and that access to space should be treated like a private trucking company venture—an approach already urged by NASA for re-supply of the space station.
Why would the private sector place money on the moon, for starters? Worden asked Dr. Edward Teller this question some years before Teller’s death in 2003. Teller, whom the fictional Dr. Strangelove may be modeled after, said the best resource the moon has is space. Worden thought that was a flippant reply, but Teller went on to say space is the place where you could do pretty much as you like. The moon doesn’t have an Environmental Protection Agency or any other regulatory agencies. What Teller had in mind was experimenting with nuclear explosions. Worden now also sees the moon as a “reserve for doing things too dangerous to do on the earth but with ‘earth-shaking’ benefit.”
As with my past reactions when learning about Teller’s schemes, I’m intuitively repelled by the thought of turning our moon into Quarantine Central. When Teller proposed to create an artificial harbor in Alaska with nuclear explosives, society didn’t know the extent of the hazards that radioactive wastes and gases pose to all life. What makes us think we can experiment on the moon without affecting larger systems? Why not put the billions of dollars into research that we know would be life-enhancing?
However, Worden’s speech was interesting to me because it shed a bit more light on the politics surrounding breakthrough energy research. He publicly classifies zero-point energy research in the same category—far more dangerous than nuclear technologies and too risky to do on earth—as certain advanced genetic engineering, true artificial intelligence, and creating self-replicating nano-robots!
To quote Worden, “Other even more exotic possibilities may arise such as experiments into so-called zero-point energy. The latter (is) clearly the province of science fiction—but perhaps not forever. Each of these technologies offers an unlimited future, with corresponding rewards for those investing in their development. But each has risks that may well mandate the use of extreme isolation such as the moon offers.”
Don’t believe every fear-promoting thing you hear, because at the same time independent researchers around the world have safely tapped into that invisible background energy that some call the aether and other scientists have given the name zero-point energy. They are still at the experimental level of research and most are far from being ready with a reliable new energy converter that you could buy. However, there have been enough prototype devices working, although in crude and often short-lived form, to indicate that a new energy science is maturing without the benefit of a moon-based laboratory.
Is Worden unwittingly propagating yet another fear-spreading impression that discourages the funding of independent research into zero-point energy? Or does he have data that should be shared with those independent researchers?
His suggestion for the climate problem is also a Teller-inspired megaproject instead of a change in the way we do things on earth. You already know that the climate problem is being called global warming, especially if you’ve seen the film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Worden in his speech to the International Space Development Conference belittled proposed solutions that fall into what he calls the “grow strawberries in the backyard” school—the “return to nature” thinking—or the “complete restructure of the economy to use alternate fuels and so forth” solution.
At this point in contemplation of Worden’s speech I wonder why restructuring the world economy is more difficult than endless megaprojects. Worden said Edward Teller and colleagues proposed a giant shield 2,000 kilometers, placed across at the LaGrange point at which things stay in a fixed position in space, to block a few percent of the solar input. Why not instead start putting the best minds on earth onto creating a world economy not based on buying fuel and selling fuel, and welcome non-carbon energy technologies?
Take heart in the fact that many unsung individuals and the Aerospace Technology Working Group are building a vision for a better future. Don’t underestimate the human spirit.