Pfhorrest wrote:Which is not a problem of any real resource shortage, but an organizational problem of the way we use and distribute the resources at our disposal. We have, if anything, a glut of manpower available, which is probably the biggest resource needed in such an endeavor. I'm not making any definitive claims on this point, but it is at least an interesting hypothesis that a large-scale long-term project like this might help better focus our organization and use of resources, and thus help our economy.
I agree with you about the manpower. Maybe we have another limiting resource. In the short run we have a limited amount of cheap fossil fuel, and all our energy alternatives look expensive too. This is probably solvable, but we have organizational problems on that front as well.
I can imagine that a large-scale long-term project might help us get focus. However, the US government already has a large-scale long-term project. They anticipated that as the Chinese government gets stronger, it will develop a military that will threaten the free world. So we must create a military that can defeat China within the next 30 years or so. Preparing for this, the US government made precisely the right threatening gestures against China to get them to increase their military spending, thus demonstrating the growing Chinese threat.
How can a new project compete with that one? It would have to better meet our needs. I've found it useful to think that people and organizations have a hierarchy of needs, and the highest needs take priority. The highest need is a sense of identity. People will do whatever it takes to affirm who they are. Second is excitement. Third is security.
Americans traditionally thought of ourselves as pioneers and innovators. But when the frontier was gone that image dwindled. Still it could fit. We had a sense of manifest destiny, an idea of taking what was ours. When we ran out of America to take that dwindled. We took the Philippines and talked about spreading democracy, but we had no stomach for a long expensive occupation. That was our only real colonial effort apart from latin america which has always been our punching bag. (And South Korea. And of course Iraq.) Still, we strongly feel the duty to make the world safe for democracy. The Chinese government oppresses their people, it runs giant slave labor camps, and we will nuke them if we can stop them from nuking us back.
So to get the USA into space, we would need to strongly emphasize our pioneering innovative spirit, and also come up with reasons why we must
succeed. A space-based solution to global warming? A looming catastrophe like a giant meteor which will hit us in 30 years unless we start preparing now? A space-based source of cheap energy? Missile bases dug into the moon, where they cannot be attacked but can attack anywhere on the surface of the earth?
Assuming we can at least get a draw on identity, then there's the competition between the excitement of space versus the excitement of war with China. That's tough.
Say we can get a draw on excitement. Then we have the security of setting up a vibrant world economy that can tame the solar system, versus the security of winning the war against the biggest economic and military threat the world has ever seen. If present trends continue for the next 30 years, the chinese population will be 4 times the size of the US population and the chinese economy will be 10 times as big, and the US military will be facing an opponent that outspends them by 2 to 4 times. To win such a war the USA must rely heavily on secret weapons. And to keep the weapons secret, they must first do lots of secret military research, and then prevent anybody else from duplicating that research. They would have to be careful not to fund research which might lead to discovering secrets, and also influence foreign nations not to do so by all means including assassinating foreign scientists who are heading in forbidden directions.
But sharing a space program with the rest of the world works directly against this approach. We can't do both. Either we have our war with China (which might include a military space effort, with the details kept secret and every effort to keep civilians and foreign governments out of space) or we have a world effort for space exploration and development. And if the USA chooses the war route, can the rest of the world ignore us and proceed with a serious space program?
The USA desperately needs a competing long-term plan. I'm not sure that space travel is the best choice, but it's one of the choices. But then, it would be much easier for the USA to collapse than to change focus that way. A militant USA that resembled North Korea needn't stop a world effort into space, and a USA that split into several quarrelsome parts wouldn't be that much of a threat to anybody else.
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.