Wednesday, May 20, 2009
SAHARA - May 21, 2009
Tuesday last, on NOVA, a group of NASA scientists essentially agreed that the space odyssey we have been treated to since the USSR had the gall to put up an orbiter before US had gotten to it had a most limited scientific impact, hardly warranting the peril of so many lives and such a monumental expenditure. Its benefit, they said, had been mainly in sustaining US as the leading nation. And whatever gains we have realized in the moon rocks and the wonderful pictures from the Hubble Telescope have left us with an agency that must find a motivation for further exploration, no matter the cost. In order to sustain that agency, we have pretended that the planting of a colony of human beings on Mars is somehow essential to our species, especially as we despoil our native planet and render it uninhabitable. But before we can even fantasize in that direction, we must find a way to turn our present knowledge to the needs of Planet Earth, and its existential peril. In fact, if there is any hope of ever implanting a colony on Mars, we must find the means of using our present knowledge in rendering the deserts of Earth inhabitable, including those of the Sahara, the Gobi, and much of Australia. If it makes sense to build a biosphere on Mars, then the same effort would create an incomparably bigger one in one of our deserts, and supplying it with water would be far more feasible. Keeping the air and water would be trivial by comparison, and any one of them could be an Eden compared with the best we could hope to create elsewhere in the universe. Until we can demonstrate that we can make the deserts bloom on a gigantic scale, we must recognize the talk of inhabiting other worlds as almost literally pie in the sky.