Amazing 50 and 30 years initiating into space and still crab-potted

The news today points out that 50 years ago today, the first man to orbit the planet did so and landed safely; Gagarin's orbit beaming down TV photos of doing it, amazed the world, what was happening over their heads. Just like the Soviet's Sputnik orbiting satellite beeping overhead, somehow it woke some people up to the new potentials of the huge space that has always been up there over our heads, and now potentially occupied by threats.

The Cold War nuclear war brinksmanship and the standoff at Cuba, nukes aimed at us from right next door, fresh in our minds when it was graphically pointed out to the American public that if the Soviets put such nuke-carrying rockets on the Moon aimed at us, we could not defend against them; thus the frantic "Space Race to the Moon," which we "won," seen as end of game.

But we had no interest in space resources, unfortunately, to keep our activities going on the Moon. The authorities merely cut the Apollo program short so as to no longer sweat out each mission that it did not end in disaster, quitting the game while ahead, unaware that they were forfeiting the real game.

Such a space race to put missile launch sites on other planetary bodies, including the Moon and maybe a moon of Mars, might happen again, so we had to do something to keep our space technical expertise up to snuff, so the Space Shuttle and the Freedom Space Station projects were begun to do that; and the ISS was modified to be an international effort, as we began to strive for more cooperation among nations, making a little more sense finally. Yet our purpose in doing so seemed mostly without long range intent; we just stayed busy at it in case of some unknown future need. Mostly we just focused on robotic instruments in space, checking things out both on Earth and abroad. And we demonstrated to the world that we had space access expertise, just in case some up-and-coming nation decided to use space to conquer the other nations. So 30 years ago we launched our first Space Shuttle into orbit around Earth in Low Earth Orbit, a major milestone.

Yet we still were missing the point, that space has huge resources, both close by and a little more distant. We chained ourselves to be too close to home, by then urging space industry and purposes shift over from NASA-driven to private enterprise profit-driven motives, forcing rocket launch to be the only means of access to get off the planet, and the incredible energy inefficiency of such space access locked us down here, except for some 500 folks who ever so briefly went on rides fairly nearby.

Inefficient, because of all the huge roar and flames and amazing blastoff of rocketry, of the $10,000 of that to put a single pound into GeoStationary Earth Orbit - such as for our communication satellites there - only 73 cents of it (at 10 cents per KWh to pay for the 7,300 KWh per pound added via lifting and orbiting it in GEO) actually went to add energy to that pound of payload to lift it up and keep it there. That is hugely inefficient, for sure. But we are stuck with it as long as we limit ourselves to rocketry.

The anchored tether Space Elevator concept was ridiculed and hamstrung by devious means, to take attention away from other more feasible given present technology and materials, until the low orbits got so filled with satellites that it would be too dangerous to put up a tether Space Elevator or other energy supported space access structures, like the "KESTS to GEO" (Kinetic Energy Supported Transportation Structure to GeoStationary Earth Orbit) planet-encircling hoop centrifugally-supported transportation structure, electrically powered, built using conventional materials, that had potentials to be able to move construction materials in huge quantities as extremely high energy efficiencies perhaps approaching that 73 cents per pound, thus enabling a whole new era of space utilization, like Solar Power Satellites in GEO finally feasible to provide clean electrical space-derived energy to civilization, and total recycling facilities in GEO to reduce toxic materials down the their cleanly separated elemental atoms again for re-use, and spaceports from which to launch huge expeditions to Mars and elsewhere, not on a shoestring as now being contemplated via rocketry, but with all the resources to make it work.

So it is amazing how we - mankind - get things done, if at all. Probably if KESTS to GEO does get built, it will be done only insofar as to gain wealth and power for a few folks, instead of to ease mankind's burden on our home planet, while greatly expanding civilization into Earth orbit. Somehow we keep missing the point that this is our home and we need to keep Earth in thriving clean shape for the near and distant future, and that our technology is ready to enable that move to earth orbit in a huge way, if we but set our purposes to that. But no, we are like packs of predators, seeking right to exploit the planet's resources, whether it is by oil taken from where the carbon was sequestered by nature under the ground, or by horns sawed off of black rhinos shot down.

Follow the money, is the old saying. Follow the wisdom seems a rare view. Yet somehow we have still done some amazing things, in our races for power and profit. Unfortunately only a tiny portion of what we could have done with those same levels of efforts. Yet a little bit of something is better than nothing.

And by celebrating those achievements, even if done for immature purposes, we can reward ourselves and perhaps have the courage and wisdom for risking a quick look at what we could achieve soon, if we would but do it together.

Mankind seems to be suffering from crab-potting. If you catch a crab on the seashore and put it into a hole in the sand, it will quickly escape. But if you put two crabs in the same hole, neither will escape because they will prevent each other from excaping by fighting each other. Sometimes I wonder if somebody has crab-potted us to keep us from expanding into space. Maybe we are still too predatory minded a species to be allowed into space big-time. So maybe it is a test: if we can stop being rival crabs fighting each other, and decide to work together as buddies to share in the larger gains achievable by mutual help, we can demonstrate that we are no longer crab-pottable, and are wise and intelligent enough to be able to be allowed into space big time. Or we will exterminate ourselves first. THIS IS A TEST as was the radio message that so often scared us in the Cold War.

Yet we can still remember and thrill to those adventuresome rides of Gagarin 50 years ago, and of the first Space Shuttle crew 30 years ago, as the technological labors of thousands of people enabled them to experience amazing rides so as to demonstrate potentials of what might come to be. And they survived those rides! Adventure very high.

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