About Out of the Cradle

It’s still early days for spaceflight

In your everyday life, you probably don’t give much thought to outer space. But the reality is that you’re surrounded by it on all sides. If your car could go straight up, you could drive to space in about an hour, and without risking a speeding fine. Down here on Earth, we’re a bit like well informed goldfish in a bowl – we might know on an intellectual level that there’s a lot more to the universe than our little habitat, but we can’t really imagine ever going there, or any use for it. It’s just an interesting curiosity for goldfish “astronomers.”

It’s not easy to get out into space, and there doesn’t seem to be much point – with our current technology it’s hard to imagine any Earthly problems that could be solved from up there. Well, apart from global communications, weather prediction, climate and ecological monitoring, spy satellites, and precision global navigation – but they’re the low-hanging fruit, right? Space is too expensive to do anything significant there, isn’t it?

The right answer to that question is “not for much longer.” There’s still a fair level of uncertainty about the value of “much” – but times are changing. One day, one of the many entrepreneurial space companies out there is going to climb to the top of the vast pile of failed predecessors, make it to space, and find a way to make money there. It could take a hundred years to happen – or it could be happening right now. When it happens, everything changes. The goldfish will no longer be confined to the bowl.

Space is a place of abundant room, abundant energy, and abundant resources. It’s a bit of a pain to have to provide your own life support, but humans, unlike goldfish, aren’t daunted by technical challenges. One day, we’ll go to space, and we’ll use what we find there to make life better for all of us back here on Earth.

And that’s what Out of the Cradle is all about. Humanity is slowly, painfully, becoming a spacefaring species. It’s not easy. It’s not cheap. It’s not short-term.

But it’s starting now. With things as simple and seemingly trivial as tourists who want to fly to the edge of space. Internet millionaires who want to build and fly cheaper rockets, even though there’s not a lot of stuff waiting to be launched yet. Scientists looking at the platinum on the moon, or the energy from solar radiation flux in free space, and thinking, “we could use that…”

There’s more of it going on than you’d think, and you can read about a lot of it here.

A Russian scientist from last century, the guy who practically invented the science of rocket propulsion, once said – “The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.” Today we’re seeing the first, faltering footsteps of our species, as we learn how to lift ourselves out of the cradle.

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