July 20th 2009 is the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. July 20th is also Space Exploration Day. After 40 years of space exploration it is time to begin space settlement. In order to honor all who risked their lives for space exploration and all who are dedicated to opening the new era of space settlement, we ask everyone to blog about space settlement on July 20th. Feel free to write about any aspect of space settlement, and about settlement at any space location — orbital settlements, settlements on the Moon, Mars, asteroids, or any place else.
So there I was, reading it and thinking about all the possibilities. I could try it as a short sci-fi story, and work the ground-pounder yearning for celestial seasonings angle. But it didn’t feel quite right. Then it came to me. I’m from the Sputnik-Generation. Spacecrazed stargazers can relate. In 1969, we were just this side of entering our terrible teens. On July 20 of that year, when Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon, we were out of school for the summer.
Some of us have pictures and sounds emblazoned in our memories from that day. The inspiration that came later, though, remains even as the earlier memories fade. The astronauts of Apollo 11 may have been the first human sentients to do it, but in our imaginations and aspirations, many had been there before them, and more would come afterwards.
We dared to imagine far-off worlds with differently colored skies and odd-tasting native foods that explorers had grown in hydroponics tanks aboard space-faring vehicles. Gravity was our toy, to be increased or decreased as suited our whims. Transparent domes kept us safe from harsh elements as we carried out our lives inside hermetically sealed space settlements. Familiar words like “outpost” served us well when we tried to capture the thrill of being pioneers in space. Along with our adventuresome spirits, we took our hope and dreams for the future.
Rather than envision our best and brightest poring over every scientific detail of our travels, we romanticized our ideas, and clothed them in flesh and blood much like their predecessors who made such treks as the Lewis and Clark expedition. Our new heroes, though, would wear space suits instead of buckskin and carry laser weapons in place of archaic bows and arrows. The enemies they would face would be those who sought to refuse them the moon and stars.
In March 1995, Earth populated space with our largest number of citizens at one time–thirteen. Over twenty-five years passed between Apollo 11 and that milestone. In July of 2009 we not only hit the lucky number thirteen again–this time the International Space Station (ISS) housed them for a short time. Compared to dreams, these numbers seem small. Yet the millions of people and billions of dollars required to get them there are a testament to our human dedication and perseverance.
When we finally do build our first space settlement, will life imitate art, or will our history of space travel have proven to us that art was wrong?