April 8th, 2009
On Monday of this week, I gave you my take on why you should join ISEC, the International Space Elevator Consortium. Today, I present Ben Shelef’s reasoning as to why he thinks that you should join ISEC.
Ben is the CEO of the Spaceward Foundation, the host of the Space Elevator Games. Ben has done just a great job with this; sheparding the games from a starting point of climbers trying to ascend a 50 meter tether, powered by searchlights provided by Spaceward, to what he is planning to do today; having laser-powered climbers ascend/descend a cable a full kilometer into the sky. The increase in skill level demonstrated by the teams is nothing short of amazing. And, lest we forget, there are TWO Space Elevator Games, the other being the Strong Tether Competition. Though overshadowed by the more showy Climber / Power-Beaming competition, the Strong Tether competition is arguably even more important. After all, if the tether isn’t strong enough, there won’t be a Space Elevator.
Anyway, here is Ben’s take on why YOU should join the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC):
Consider these points:
• ISEC is the only organization fully dedicated to building a Space Elevator.
• The Space Elevator is the only approach we know of to creating a space-faring, interplanetary civilization.
• Creating a space-faring, interplanetary civilization is the only way to guarantee mankind’s continued prosperity through the 21st century and prevent us from going through another cycle of cultural collapse and loss of knowledge.
Bold claims, to be sure, but true nonetheless. Let’s go over them, starting with the boldest one. The renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings recently asked: “How can the human race survive the next hundred years?” The human race faces many challenges, some old, and some new – between wars, natural disasters, climate change, and just plain stagnation, there is no lack of credible threats to our society. What is new and unprecedented is that our immune system is shot.
Throughout our history, mankind was composed of many separate civilizations, interconnected through relatively limited trade routes. Interaction between the civilizations was mostly through commerce, and sometimes through war. This was a good thing, since it allowed different cultures to participate in a Darwinian process – bits and pieces were exchanged, sometimes cultures were merged, and most importantly, the failure of any single civilization through any of the reasons mentioned above did not bring about the end of mankind.
This mechanism has ceased to function now, since our civilization has become a single tightly interconnected culture. We can communicate between any two points on the globe in mere fractions of a second, and we can hurl our bombs at each other across the oceans in less than 30 minutes. Our industry is at the point where it has the potency to affect the environment of the whole planet, not just of the local pond, and our manufacturing and financial systems are completely interdependent.
This adds up to the old adage of having all of our eggs in one basket. When our current civilization, just like many before it, succumbs to any of the challenges mentioned above, there will be no other civilization to prop it up. We have no backups. The only way to solve this problem is to expand our habitat into the solar system. Mars is a comparatively easy first step, but even Mars habitation will take decades to become self sufficient, and so we need to start as soon as possible.
Enter the Space Elevator. While it is conceivable that Mars habitation can be undertaken using rocket systems alone, it will be a very slow process. The Space Elevator will allow us to transfer huge amounts of mass to Mars, enabling the creation of a self-sustaining infrastructure almost instantaneously.
With an independent Mars civilization in place, we will have our first insurance policy, and having an insurance policy will have a stabilizing effect on Earth. With Mars in place, we can turn our attention to the vast resources of the asteroids, and form a true spacefaring civilizations.
Enter ISEC. The Space Elevator is not a short-term project, which makes it a very difficult endeavor to pursue. Neil Armstrong once said “We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10”.
ISEC is not distracted by “low hanging fruit” that can be achieved soon. We’re looking to create the kind of space-transportation infrastructure that will get us to space 1000 tons at a time. We think this is the most important pursuit mankind has to engage in – we do not have many generations left to keep idle.
Thank you Ben. And I say again to all of my readers, if you want a Space Elevator to happen, you should join ISEC. We are the ones who are pushing the relevant technologies forward, but we need your help to do it. Please join us and participate in what promises to be one of the defining projects of this century.