Gene Roddenberry so famously called space the final frontier, and even referred to his original show Star Trek as a kind of space western. Star Trek and its many spinoff series have a special place in my heart and many others. It inspires, explores difficult questions and presents an overall optimistic view of humanity. But, with the new establishment of the American Space Force, are we really at the same level as the society presented in Roddenberry’s franchise?
Most would say “of course not” because we aren’t anywhere near that level with our technology. However, I am going to ask you to put technology comparison aside. For the sake of this article, we are going to pretend that the projections of humans colonizing the moon and mars around the 2050s are true. With the question of “can we go to space?” aside we can look more deeply into the question of “should we go to space?”
We can start the answer to that question of the wording of our projections alone. Colonization. That word right there is a red flag. Many of our global problems are or were a direct result of colonialism. Many South American and African countries are still recovering from European Colonization. Indigenous people across the world still suffer because the colonies pushed them out of their own land. The Vietnam War was partially due to French colonialism. We have to look at our own history and learn from our mistakes.
Some may argue that it doesn’t matter because there is no life on the moon or Mars. Once there is, however, what are we going to do then? I ask you to consider how many wars and conflicts were over territory. Most civil wars involve it. In the ‘60s a treaty had to be established to keep countries from fighting over Antarctica. The U.S. is still highly competitive with Russia and any other technologically advanced country for that matter. I don’t think it is yet safe to say that the continuation of The Space Race wouldn’t turn into a major conflict.
That isn’t even the biggest reason humans aren’t ethically ready for space travel on a major level. We aren’t environmentally responsible enough. Only just recently we have begun to stop arguing over if climate change is real or not and moved on to if we should do something about it or not.
If we want to go to space then yes, we should do something about it. If we can’t keep our own polar ice caps from melting, then we aren’t responsible enough to keep Mars from melting. If we can’t keep oil out of our oceans and greenhouse gasses out of our air, then we morally should not expand into space. If we continue our behavior on Earth out in space, then we won’t have a trash island to worry about. It will be a trash planet.
We don’t deserve to greatly inhabit space yet. We can’t even feed 690 million people on our own planet, and it isn’t even because we don’t have enough food to feed them. The wealthiest countries still have citizens without shelter. Citizens dying from disease. We still have high rates of violence and crimes. We call ourselves civilized but refuse to work together and accept our consequences. We don’t have time to worry about colonizing space until we can solve the problems we’ve made on this planet.
We haven’t even fully explored our own oceans. New species of animals are frequently being found all the time in remote parts of the rainforests. Even parts of our history are still being excavated out of the ground. There is still so much to learn about Earth. So much to do and experience. So much to take better care of. As much as I love the final frontier, I do not think humankind should be in a rush yet to subjugate it.