When Newt Gingrich proposed building a Moon base during his presidential campaigning, the response of his opponents’ was not to engage in a debate about the future of space exploration, but simply to ridicule the idea. And ridicule, says science fiction author Sylvia Engdahl, “is a convenient weapon against buried feelings that one does not dare to acknowledge.” Such a reaction, particularly from would-be heads of state, signals a national subconscious fear about space achievements that are well within our grasp, such as establishing manned bases on the Moon and Mars.
What’s the Big Idea?
Once we realized that sailing over the horizon would not cause us to drop off the planet, space became the next frontier of human exploration. And as successive scientific revolutions challenged religious dictum, shifting our existence from the center of the Universe to an insignificant speck in one of billions of other galaxies, the public has taken its time in overcoming the discomfort that occurs when certainty becomes uncertainty. But each time, we have eventually acclimated ourselves to the new truth. “To me it is reassuring to realize that, barring some major disaster to Earth’s civilization, the present unwillingness to accept the challenge of space will pass,” says Engdahl.