Space exploration. Space settlement. Space empires.
What’s the fascination?
It’s in our bones, or rather our genes.
Our ancestors and their precursors were not satisfied with the place they grew up in. Sub-Saharan dwellers spread out to occupy every habitable place in Africa. Their cousins headed north into Arabia, then Europe (where the Atlantic Ocean was an insurmountable obstacle for untold thousands of years). Others headed east through the Indian sub-continent, the steppes, and Asia until the Pacific stood in their way.
But they did not let that obstacle defeat them. The southerners settled Australia, New Zealand, and stunningly remote Pacific Islands such as Easter Island, Tahiti, and Hawaii. The northerners crossed into Alaska and spread out across the whole of America, north and south.
And now there’s nowhere on the planet’s surface left to expand into (except off-limits Antarctica). As Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they aren’t making it anymore.“
Okay, there’s the oceans if we don’t pollute them too much. But every ancestor of today’s population has turned their eyes upward, perhaps blinking in puzzlement and wonder at the majestic display of fireflies drifting across the skies and that magical pale face staring back at them from the moon. And the sun! The source of all life. If only they could reach out and touch…
Today, we CAN reach out and touch (some of those fireflies, at least). Every year our reach extends further but most of those sky-bound objects still outdistance our grasp. We constantly discover new exoplanets, ever more places where humanity could just, maybe, possibly, settle and thrive. Is colonizing Mars or an ice planet harder than living in the Australian desert or the Arctic ice, given our rapidly advancing scientific knowledge and technical skills?
The drive to know “what’s over there, beyond this hill, river, or desert?” continues to stir our thoughts, hopes, and dreams. We are on the launch pad of a future where humanity will cross a greater creation, overcome a greater obstacle, and experience a greater unknown.
We wonder what it will be like and we invent stories, as our ancestors have done ever since they learned to speak. Stories: making sense of the inexplicable and the unknown. Stories: imagining future possibilities for the generations to come, for whatever humanity evolves into. It’s in our bones as it was in theirs. Look closely at those bones in the museums. Not so different from us, just lacking the sci-tech.
So that’s why space-based Science Fiction is so popular. I can recommend a few good books by an author I know very well…
Of course, there’s more to Sci-Fi than this. But I don’t have space here to cover it all. Maybe next year.
and a better New Year for all of humanity.