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High, Higher, Highest Frontiers

31 Jul 2011, 08:00 UTC
High, Higher, Highest Frontiers
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In the mid-1970s, the U.S. State Department prohibited the internal use of the term “space colony,” due to the global bad reputation of colonialism. Instead, the government opted for “space settlement.” Of course, as Stewart Brand pointed out at the time, the last thing you do in space is settle. Quite the opposite! Making the decision to explore space — and live there — is just about the most unsettled act a human can commit.
There have always been two camps on this issue. First, the unsettled, like Brand: the science-fiction aficionados, capitalists, rocketry geeks, macrocosmic thinkers, and Whole Earthers for whom space travel represents a profound philosophical commitment to the outward longevity and dissemination of the species. For these, the jump from Gaia to Cosma is logical. Second, the settled: politicians and pragmatists who see the very idea as a folly, particularly considering that we, as a species, seem incapable of tending to our home planet. Let the universe come when it is ready, this latter group proposes (still a third is unaware of the question).
Where do I stand? Somewhere in between. Of course, I dream of seeing, from a distant planet, three moons rise over the horizon ...

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