In most space movies, the answer to every problem is usually to slingshot around the moon or go through a black hole. But here on Earth, we have to find more creative solutions to our problems, like heaving everything into space.
That appears to be the first question asked when presented with any quandary. Communication problems? Put it in space. Overpopulation issues? Try a moon colony. Too much garbage? Shoot it into the sun.
It wouldn’t be surprising if, in the future when space travel is more common, a guy responded to his girlfriend breaking up with him by saying, “What if we try this relationship in zero gravity? It could spice things up.”
Save Us, Space
It may appear as if I’m exaggerating a little (which is true), but the examples of this space Hail Mary pass keep mounting. A European Commission wants to put datacenters in orbit where no one can hear them hum. Russian scientists are considering using a constellation of satellites to display giant pixel images to helpless consumers on the ground. And Starlink is bringing the horrifying pettiness and narcissism of the internet to remote areas on Earth that probably previously led a Shangri La-like existence.
We’ve looked for oil up there, hope to put excess people on the moon, and regularly use space to make energy more sustainable and the environment cleaner and all that good crap I pretend to care about.
Perhaps the most amusing example along these lines is our half-serious idea of shooting garbage into the sun, where neighbors can’t complain about the smell. It seems entirely logical at first. The sun’s just a giant incinerator floating in space, why don’t we just pack some garbage into a rocket, say a tearful goodbye, and send it there every Thursday to coincide with garbage pick-up day?
Long story short, some people did the math and found that the whole enterprise is simply too damn expensive. Launching thousands of pounds of garbage with rockets that tend to cost around $200 million is not exactly an efficient way to get rid of all those plastic ring thingies that six-packs come in.
Still, no matter what we like to tell ourselves, the primary reason beyond learning and exploration that we hurl rockets off our planet is so we can hitch a ride on them one day and get the hell out of here. We tend to view Earth as a party that’s no longer fun and imagine that because there’s always a great view out the window up there, all problems and worries will somehow be mollified.
It’s kind of like when a kid is trying to clean their room quickly before his mother gets there, and tosses things under the bed and in the closet and out the window. We just do that with space.
But you must have seen one of the dozens of Star Trek shows that keep coming out–they’ve got a new huge new problem every week to contend with, and there are plenty of jerks floating up there. Even when we fantasize about space, we can’t help bringing our petty Earth baggage with us.
Out of Ideas Down Here
Granted, space can obviously help us solve all sorts of shenanigans on this giant blue marble, which is why astronomers are conducting numerous experiments up there where they can get some peace and quiet.
But our reliance on space solutions is also a slight indication of a lack of imagination here on Earth (which reminds me of the old monologue on imagination from the play Six Degrees of Separation). The tendency to look to the stars to answer our problems betrays a sense that we’ve run out of ideas and given up on the ground.
Think of that friend you have who’s way too into pets–it’s partially because, at some point, they’ve been so disappointed by people that their dog is the only creature they can trust anymore. And yes, I know I’m using too many different analogies to make the same point in this article.
Space certainly has its place, and I want to go up there and cover the Earth in the distance with my thumb as much as the next person. When approaching a problem, however, perhaps it’s best to exhaust every possibility on Earth where we can breath without a helmet and go for a walk.
Because that great dark void up there isn’t going to solve any core problems inherent in human nature, and if we rely on it too much, we’ll screw the pooch up there as much as we have down here.
Then where are we going to go? Another dimension, probably.
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