It is a false choice to infer that we need to choose between a “moonshot” (in the extraterrestrial sense) and fixing social and structural problems on Earth.
Anecdote Warning: On Thursday last, at a biz conference, I had dinner with my other nerdly teammates. Being 63, I am senior in the group. Two of the people at the dinner were space nerds, and were engaged in heavy breathing over the flight of the Falcon Heavy the week before last, comparing pictures and videos of the takeoff and landing on their iPhones.
I related to them that although I was happy that the Falcon Heavy flew…..I remained rather tepid in my excitement….. because the fact is that the Falcon Heavy is not even close to being as powerful as the Saturn V that NASA flew fifty years ago; in fact, it’s just a bit more than half as powerful.
It’s not to say that the last fifty years were wasted, as space exploration goes; but we haven’t been back to the moon, and we did not press outwards with permanent settlements there, or on further to Mars.
Well, like the subject of the article above…..people decided that the money was better spent here on the ground.
Were there repercussions from that? Of course. NASA stopped being the place that the best engineers went, because they wanted to solve hard problems; hard problems inspire the best engineers. So. off they went to Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, and finally NOW, decades later….. to SpaceX.
Why? Well, figuring out how to design a larger and faster passenger jet is a poor substitute for figuring out how to get to Mars and back. Simple, that.
So, the article’s implicit suggestion, that we should place social change investment in the same conversation as space exploration, would in fact sentence us back into that same small, restrictive box that we’ve been living in the past fifty years, beating our heads against the sides of that box because the social problems that we are today facing are those in the hearts of men, not in legalities; and the hearts of men are unusually resistant to efforts to change them from the outside.
So, yes, let the neo-sociologists of today go off and advocate for their cause du jour; that’s not a problem. However, suggesting that those efforts are in the same class as turning the creative technological vision of man to the stars……..please.
Not even close.