Over the last couple of weeks a video of a marriage proposal at the Chicago Comic Con got a lot of hits. That’s because the couple was blessed by none other than Patrick Stewart, the actor who made quite a career out of playing USS Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard. A cute (if nerdy) moment, and good for them:
However, for me the video brought to mind something less pleasant. Back in 2004 the same actor took the time to poo-poo human space exploration in a BBC Interview:
I would like to see us get this place right first before we have the arrogance to put significantly flawed civilisations out on to other planets.
Stewart repeats one of the oldest and most flawed arguments against human spaceflight. Exploration, and especially exploration that challenges us as a trip to the Moon did (or as a trip to Mars would), provides tremendous benefits here at home. At the same time, it is ridiculous to expect a time when there won’t be problems on Earth. Who will be the judge as to when we are good enough that we can go out and play?
Seven years later I’m still irritated when I see him. Maybe I need to get over it, but in this case it’s not just what was said, but who said it.
They’re not quite skinsuits, but someone is thinking ahead to what sort of suits future Mars settlers will need.
Wikipedia has a useful backgrounder on the skinsuit (aka “mechanical counterpressure suit” or “space activity suit”), which includes the basis for several details of how the concept is applied in In the Shadow of Ares. But if you’re more into a retro-look, Jeff Foust reviews of a new book on the development history of the Apollo lunar spacesuits.
“Hispanically Speaking News” ran this story yesterday: Scientists Will Simulate a Space Colony in Chile to Study Life In Mars:
Chilean scientists along with scientists from several other countries will construct a base in the most-arid desert in the world, Chile’s Atacama (where the 33 miners got trapped) aiming to simulate life in a space colony on the planet Mars, which shares a lot of characteristics with Atacama.
While the tie-in to the Chilean mine rescue is interesting, it is not clear if mining will play a significant role in any simulations. It would certainly seem to be relevant. As we portray in “In the Shadow of Ares”, mining will certainly be a crucial part of the economic development of any off-Earth settlements.
At least the Chinese seem to think so:
In March 2011, a delegation from the Chinese space agency will visit the Chilean desert project. The Chinese are projecting that by 2020 they will have below-ground bases on the Moon to extract minerals and are eager to research and test their cutting edge space technology.
Where can we expect the United States to be in 2020? Will the recent shift to private enterprise see the economic and regulatory incentives necessary for this fledgling industry to survive and thrive?