Atlantis the lost continent may lay buried under the mud at the bottom of the sea, but Atlantis the space shuttle soared high into Space. Captain Christopher Ferguson, United States Navy and a NASA astronaut, is the Commander of the last space shuttle. Not only is the last shuttle for America but also for the world.
The only other one was the Soviet Buran that flew once, unmanned, and then was shut down. In some ways the Buran was a superior vehicle and in other ways not. In any case, no other nation-states are positioned to launch such massive ships. The Soviet Union no longer exists, and the United States has become an overextended and nearly bankrupted empire. It now depends upon the Russian Soyuz to transport humans and supplies to the International Space Station. Unless something goes awry, Atlantis has 12 days to complete its mission.
Atlantis blasted off to cheers and tears this morning of 8 July 2011. This mission is the 33rd for Atlantis and the 135th for NASA’s shuttle program. Almost a million people came to watch the Cape Canaveral, Florida and the NASA Kennedy Space Center may well turn into Postmodern ghost towns. Thirty years of glory with its share of tragedies stirs powerful emotions. Many people remain passionate about the exploration and colonization of Outer Space. Not just Americans, but people from all around the world. Russia, China, India, Brazil, the European Union, even Iran.
Even as private corporations with wealthy investors race to commercialize space travel and industry, American President Obama has charged NASA with bold, new missions. The United States is to send astronauts to a major asteroid or dwarf planet by 2025 and a manned voyage to Planet Mars by the mid-2030s. There is talk of building bases on the Moon sheltered inside ancient craters and also deep inside old lava tubes and caves.
After all both Luna and Mars have water. And there is more water in the Universe than we dreamed of. Recently a young star only 750 light-years from Earth was discovered gushing gigantic jets of water into space from its poles. The sheer quantity of water jetting into space was estimated to be “a hundred million times the water flowing through the Amazon River every second” at “velocities of two hundred thousand kilometers per hour,” said astronomer Lars Kristensen in the Netherlands. So there is plenty of water out there.
Even so we are a planetary civilization on the verge of Collapse. Yes, collapse with a Big “C” as defined by Jared Diamond, the author of books of great reckoning. A Pulitzer Prize winning evolutionary biologist and geographer-historian, his work Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed seized the popular imagination. As a global civilization divided by warring economies, nations, religions, politics, tribes, and ethnic groups we expend enormous treasure and blood on war and violence. We have a huge list of serious problems threatening to overwhelm us from wars to global climate disruption to financial collapse to poverty, hunger, epidemics, pollution, environmental destruction, the domination of the money power by the global financial elite, and many more.
We are not able to afford to develop and launch the technologies and machines, train the people needed, and create the logistical support base. Our governments are torn by too many competing priorities, priorities that exist as such from the viewpoint of a nation, but fall away to become moot points once the perspective of a Democratic World Government (DWG) is held.
Successful exploration, settlement, and development of Outer Space have many benefits for humanity back on Earth. New sources of raw materials and other resources, more living room to ease population pressure back on the home planet, launching sites further out and with less gravity to explore further and deeper into Space, and the development of new medicines and other products and technologies that shift from specialized use in space to the more general marketplaces on Earth.
The concerted effort it would take to develop Space would demand a high degree of global cooperation. The collective effort to collaborate on such a level would break down barriers to unity and integration between formerly hostile groups and foster an evolving sense of belonging not only to a particular tribe, religion, or nationality but also to a united planet. Which in turn would feed back into uniting humanity to address the convergence of many serious problems, problems we have caused in our greed, ignorance, and willfulness, that threaten our civilization with Collapse.
A global cooperative as a Democratic World Government would be the only way to generate a truly massive space program of the caliber and expense it would take to explore, settle, and develop Luna, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and in orbit around these worlds and Earth. Venus and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn wait even further out in the future. We or our children and grandchildren may witness and participate in the founding of not just a unified Planet Earth but also a Solarian federation.
Atlantis has blasted off and now swings around our world in low or near-Earth orbit. While a shining light of triumph for the United States of America with the International Space Station being a monument to Russian-American and other global cooperation, let us stand for an even bigger, deeper picture.
Our space shuttle Atlantis, in her farewell mission, can serve as a beacon to inspire those passionate for space exploration to take a stand for Democratic World Government. A great place to start is to go to https://voteworldparliament.org/ and vote “Yes!” in the on-line Global Referendum for a Democratic World Parliament.
Otherwise any significant space program based upon nation-states will never reach those higher frontiers beyond launching satellites and tourists. Without a view from Space of a distant, small, and majestic Planet Earth by far more people than the small number of Apollo astronauts who watched the Earth in awe, we may never achieve the local-global integration necessary to solve our problems.
William Dudley Bass
8 July 2011
Revised and reposted 26 January 2012
“Democratic World Parliament through a Global Referendum,” Vote World
Fazekas, Andrew. “Star Found Shooting Water ‘Bullets,’” National Geographic Daily News, June 2011. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/06/110613-space-science-star-water-bullets-kristensen/>.
Kavanagh, Michael. “Jared Diamond’s Collapse traces the fates of societies
to their treatment of the environment,” Grist: A Beacon in the Smog. February 2005. <http://www.grist.org/article/kavanagh-collapse>.
Wall, Mike. “Tears and Cheers: NASA’s Shuttle’s Swan Song Brings Strong
Emotions,” Space.com. July 2011. <http://www.space.com/12222-nasa-space-shuttle-atlantis-launch-emotions.html>.
NOTE: This essay originally appeared as “Farewell, Atlantis. May you be a beacon for a United Earth Federated Republic,” in my earlier current affairs blog, At the Brink with William Dudley Bass on 8 July 2011, at http://atthebrinkwithwilliamdudleybass.blogspot.com/2011/07/farewell-atlantis.html. It was revised, rewritten, and re-published here this December 2011. Thank you.
Copyright © 2011, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.