How big a role space travel will play in our future is a question with implications for our civilization’s intellectual, economic and philosophical growth. It may even be the hinge upon which swings the survival of the planet. But as Centauri Dreams regular Nick Nielsen points out in the essay below, enthusiasts for spacefaring can overlook historical analogies that show us the many ways humans can shape their culture. Numerous scenarios swing into view. An interstellar future may not be in the cards, depending on the choices we make, which is why seeing space travel in perspective is crucial for shaping the exploratory outcome many of us hope to see.
By J. N. Nielsen
The Role of Spacefaring in Spacefaring Civilizations
What is, and what will be, the role of spacefaring in spacefaring civilizations? If we count the present human spacefaring capability as constituting a contemporary spacefaring civilization, the question can be partly addressed by assessing the role of spacefaring in contemporary civilization. There are several different ways in which we might measure the impact of our spacefaring capability on civilization as a whole, some of them easily quantifiable and some of them not so easy to quantify.