The Earth-Moon highway — Beginnings of a space fleet

Space: To Settle or to Sail?

Posted on December 4, 2012 by Paul Spudis

Those of us in the space business have been looking for an “airtight” rationale that justifies human spaceflight. Many different reasons and justifications have been advanced, all refutable to a greater or lesser extent by skeptics. Using the settlement of space as a rationale seems very attractive because, by definition, it requires humans to be present there. The story of life on Earth is the story of extinction, so we must establish multiple human settlements throughout space to insure the survival of our culture and species.

Derek Webber, writing in The Space Review, is the latest to take up this rhetorical argument. Webber does not suggest that we make settlement the only goal of human spaceflight – he simply wants it explicitly listed among all of the many other goals and objectives. He recognizes that this is a long-term goal, distant enough that its inclusion has no budgetary implications. In this sense, it mostly serves to raise the consciousness of the public, to inculcate within them the idea that the human settlement of space is a long-term strategic aim.

Webber argues that because adding this goal has no budgetary implications, there is no downside to including it. I beg to differ. As I have argued previously, although I am sympathetic to the intellectual argument that species survival is the “ultimate rationale” for human spaceflight in general, I do not think that this is an appropriate goal or rationale for a federal, civil space program. The reasons have to do with perceptions among those who work in the space field, as well as by politicians who fund it, and by the public at large.

Read more:Space: To Settle or to Sail? | Spudis Lunar Resources.

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