Space, an article by Shirley Farlinger
When it comes to the topic of space we have gone from wonder and admiration for nature’s spectacles of sun, moon, stars, constellations and planets to our human urge to investigate or perhaps to meddle. The stars helped explorers navigate the oceans in past times.
First we named the stars, built bigger and bigger telescopes to see them, sent radio messages and then decided to travel out there in space, starting with the moon.
Little thought was given at first to the intrusion into pristine environments, or to the pollution from these flights. And even less thought to the enormous public expense. It was a Cold War space race that we had to win.
Now it will no longer be just government and tax dollars because space exploits are being privatized with some private investors. Some entrepreneurs are eyeing the mineral and other resources to be found on planets.
The public is so happy with its Global Positioning Systems and immediate global newscasts that we can’t imagine having to do without them. As the number of satellites increases there is now an urgent need to deal with the problem of space debris.
The communication satellites have military uses as well, for example they are essential for the latest drone technology to target enemies far away.
Another misuse of space may be the bio-engineering being suggested to counteract global warming by placing certain particles in space.
Our thoughtlessness reached new levels with the introduction of nuclear-powered space missions such as Cassini. In 1997 NASA launched this rocket with three Radioisotope Thermal Generators powered by 72.3 pounds of plutonium 239. The estimated cost was $US 3.4 billion. Fortunately there has not been an accident.
Much of what is happening in space is a secret. In Alaska there is the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program that will beam 3.6 megawatts of high-frequency radio energy into the atmosphere in order to (in the words of part of its proposal “generate ionospheric lenses to focus large mounts of high frequency processes that potentially could be exploited for Department of Defense purposes.” We cannot know if this is happening because of “national security.”
(“Planet Earth: The Latest Weapon of War” Rosalie Bertell, Black Rose Books 2001. Order from Shirley Farlinger 416-532-0220 for the cost of mailing).
How can we restore our veneration for the wonders of the universe that we feel when we look up at the myriad of twinkling stars at night? The stars belong to everyone.