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Robert Goddard’s Interstellar Migration

Astronautics pioneer Robert H. Goddard is usually thought of in connection with liquid fuel rockets. It was his test flight of such a rocket in March of 1926 that demonstrated a principle he had been working on since patenting two concepts for future engines, one a liquid fuel design, the other a staged rocket using solid fuels. “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes,” published in 1920, was a treatise published by the Smithsonian that developed the mathematics behind rocket flight, a report that discussed the possibility of a rocket reaching the Moon.

While Goddard’s work could be said to have anticipated many technologies subsequently developed by later engineers, the man was not without a visionary streak that went well beyond the near-term, expressing itself on at least one occasion on the subject of interstellar flight. Written in January of 1918, “The Ultimate Migration” was not a scientific paper but merely a set of notes, one that Goddard carefully tucked away from view, as seen in this excerpt from his later document “Material for an Autobiography” (1927):

“A manuscript I wrote on January 14, 1918 … and deposited in a friend’s safe … speculated as to the last migration of the human race, as consisting of a number of expeditions sent out into the regions of thickly distributed stars, taking in a condensed form all the knowledge of the race, using either atomic energy or hydrogen, oxygen and solar energy… [It] was contained in an inner envelope which suggested that the writing inside should be read only by an optimist.”

Optimism is, of course, standard currency in these pages, so it seems natural to reconsider Goddard’s ideas here. As to his caution, we might remember that the idea of a lunar mission discussed in “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes” not long after would bring him ridicule from some elements in the press, who lectured him on the infeasibility of a rocket engine functioning in space without air to push against. It was Goddard, of course, who was right, but he was ever a cautious man, and his dislike of the press was, I suspect, not so much born out of this incident but simply confirmed by it.

In the event, Goddard’s manuscript remained sealed and was not published until 1972. What I hadn’t realized was that Goddard, on the same day he wrote the original manuscript, also wrote a condensed version that David Baker recently published for the British Interplanetary Society. It’s an interesting distillation of the rocket scientist’s thoughts that speculates on how we might use an asteroid or a small moon as the vehicle for a journey to another star. The ideal propulsion method would, in Goddard’s view, be through the control of what he called ‘intra-atomic energy.’


Image: Rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard, whose notes on an interstellar future discuss human migration to the stars.

Atomic propulsion would allow journeys to the stars lasting thousands of years with the passengers living inside a generation ship, one in which, he noted, “the characteristics and natures of the passengers might change, with the succeeding generations.” We’ve made the same speculation here, wondering whether a crew living and dying inside an artificial world wouldn’t so adapt to the environment that it would eventually choose not to live on a planetary surface, no matter what it found in the destination solar system.

And if atomic energy could not be harnessed? In that case, Goddard speculated that humans could be placed in what we today would think of as suspended animation, the crew awakened at intervals of 10,000 years for a passage to the nearest stars, and intervals of a million years for greater distances. Goddard speculates on how an accurate clock could be built to ensure awakening, which he thought would be necessary for human intervention to steer the spacecraft if it came to be off its course. Suspended animation would involve huge changes to the body:

…will it be possible to reduce the protoplasm in the human body to the granular state, so that it can withstand the intense cold of interstellar space? It would probably be necessary to dessicate the body, more or less, before this state could be produced. Awakening may have to be done very slowly. It might be necessary to have people evolve, through a number of generations, for this purpose.

As to destinations, Goddard saw the ideal as a star like the Sun or, interestingly, a binary system with two suns like ours — perhaps he was thinking of the Alpha Centauri stars here. But that was only the beginning, for Goddard thought in terms of migration, not just exploration. His notes tell us that expeditions should be sent to all parts of the Milky Way, wherever new stars are thickly clustered. Each expedition should include “…all the knowledge, literature, art (in a condensed form), and description of tools, appliances, and processes, in as condensed, light, and indestructible a form as possible, so that a new civilisation could begin where the old ended.”

The notes end with the thought that if neither of these scenarios develops, it might still be possible to spread our species to the stars by sending human protoplasm, “…this protoplasm being of such a nature as to produce human beings eventually, by evolution.” Given that Goddard locked his manuscript away, it could have had no influence on Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s essay “The Future of Earth and Mankind,” which in 1928 speculated that humans might travel on millennial voyages to the stars aboard the future equivalent of a Noah’s Ark.

Interstellar voyages lasting thousands of years would become a familiar trope of science fiction in the ensuing decades, but it is interesting to see how, at the dawn of liquid fuel rocketry, rocket pioneers were already thinking ahead to far-future implications of the technology. Goddard was writing at a time when estimates of the Sun’s lifetime gave our species just millions of years before its demise — a cooling Sun was a reason for future migration. We would later learn the Sun’s lifetime was much longer, but the migration of humans to the stars would retain its fascination for those who contemplate not only worldships but much faster journeys.


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  • David H May 6, 2013, 10:44

    I once read that Robert Goddard at one time held something like 200 patents in respect of (liquid) rocket motor design. We have so much to thank Goddard and those like him for, however, it’s almost sad that such visionaries lived so far ahead of their time, being able to foresee the future but not witness it.

  • Horatio Trobinson May 6, 2013, 17:03

    Interesting to note that the idea of storing designs of our tools and engineering knowledge in retrievable form for future generations is basically what we’ve been talking about at length on the topic of 3d printing and raw material scavenging in space.

    A future generation without meaningless wars, Hollywood, industrial gossip and “entertainment” will have less to be distracted from a more resilient future among the stars.

  • tchernik May 6, 2013, 20:11

    David H:
    I was thinking just what you said. But such is the fate of the visionary.

    Yours seems to be a somewhat purist position. People may choose their entertainments differently according to their education and interests, but they won’t choose not to have them. Our minds aren’t simply made for performing productive work all the time. We need some rest, and idleness plus entertainment are part of it.

    Besides there are strong instincts behind some of our entertainment sources. Gossip press and Hollywood successes for example, may stem from our social creature instincts and the enjoyment we get at sharing stories (be it prurient personal secrets, scandals, rumors or fantastical tales). You can’t fight those tendencies at the big population level, even if you can choose as an individual not to pursue them.

    If anything, the future will bring even more sources of frivolous entertainment.

  • Horatio Trobinson May 7, 2013, 5:17


    Of course, I’m saying it half in jest.

    Just watch all those millions of otherwise-functional, otherwise-productive brains and souls gone to waste, had they been given the chance of much better education.
    I don’t mean productive in the utilitarian sense, but productive in whatever brings the most joy to their lives without working against their best self-interest.

    What I see is wasted cpu cycles, wasted energies, incredibly inefficient by the only metric that matters to most, that of happiness and a life of fulfillment.
    The idea of “entertainment” is very recent, probably originated in the US, and not really an universal phenomenon.
    I’m not a purist, but I could be mistaken for one, I just don’t believe our anthropologically established need for gossip and Hollywood nonsense should take an important share of our resources or time of our lives, to the detriment of our chances of survival as a species.

  • James Jason Wentworth May 7, 2013, 9:01

    Dr. Goddard “shot back” at the “New York Times”–with a revolver. Soon after their infamous editorial appeared, he staged a demonstration in front of a group of college students, using an electrically-fired pistol (loaded with a blank cartridge) mounted on the end of a counter-weighted rotating arm which was set up inside a bell jar. After a vacuum pump evacuated the air from the bell jar, Goddard closed a switch that fired the blank cartridge, which made a flash but no “bang!” as it made the arm spin rapidly in the vacuum, to the amazement and delight of the students. Watching with satisfaction as the gun and arm spun around, Goddard said: “So much for the ‘New York Times.'” :-) Also:

    I wonder if Hermann Oberth also speculated on future interstellar migration, or at least exploration? He and Tsiolkovsky corresponded and exchanged copies of their publications. Interestingly, though, one of Robert Goddard’s greatest admirers, Wernher von Braun (who was largely responsible for the Goddard Memorial Library at Clark University as well as the stone marker at the site of Goddard’s first liquid propellant rocket flight), considered interstellar travel too far over the horizon to be worth much consideration, although by 1969 he had changed his mind. Still:

    When one ponders the fact that in the very same year that Goddard wrote down his vision, his liquid-fuel rockets still lay years in the future and his biggest invention thus far was just a small powder rocket that he fired from a metal tube affixed to a music rack (the ancestor of the Bazooka anti-tank rocket), which he demonstrated to the U.S. Army just days before the end of World War I–very far from even an atmospheric sounding rocket! Someone who could think *that* far ahead at such an embryonic stage of rocketry could only be a madman–or a visionary…

  • ljk May 7, 2013, 10:23

    Here is Goddard’s 1919 paper (a book really) online in PDF format, which only mentions at the end of sending a rocket to the Moon and using flash powder to let observers back on Earth know it had hit its target. Of course that is what the media and everyone else jumped on.


    Goddard was mocked early on by the press and others for daring to suggest rocket propulsion as a means to reach space. After one of his rockets had a rather spectacular failure in Massachusetts in 1929, one newspaper declared that Goddard’s rocket had missed the Moon by only 240,000 miles. This is why he was rather silent and secretive for most of his life about his work, that and a fear of other emerging rocket experts stealing his ideas.

    The event also prompted his move to Roswell, New Mexico, where launching a rocket would be safer and have fewer unplanned witnesses. Ironically the publicity Goddard received from that one launch failure caught the attention of some guy named Charles Lindberg, who would become a sponsor for Goddard’s move and his work.

    By the way, if you want to see something space related in Roswell besides the two museums devoted to UFOs thanks to that infamous 1947 crash story, check out the Robert Goddard wing of the Roswell Museum.


    National Geographic Magazine was going to do an article on Goddard in 1944, but unfortunately it was scrapped. However, decades later they released the photographs that were to accompany the article, such as this one here:


    Did you know Goddard had a plan for messaging anyone who might be living on Mars? His METI concept was to send a space capsule to the Red Planet with successive layers of entry shielding. As each layer was burned off as the capsule plunged through the Martian atmosphere, different images on each shield would be brightly displayed to anyone who was watching this “meteor”. Goddard suggested constellation patterns and geometric figures as simple messages. I do not recall if he said how the Martians might reply in turn.

    Although I understand why Goddard was reluctant to be public about his work, I wish that he had tried to push his amazing ideas to the public more, just as I wish Neil Armstrong had been far more vocal about supporting and promoting space exploration. Perhaps we would not be further than we are now, but it certainly would not have hurt to have two men of their stature lending their voices and ideas to humanity’s expansion into space. All those who are more than mildly interested in reaching the stars should take a lesson from this.

    Finally, here is an article comparing Oberth and Goddard’s rocket work:


  • ljk May 7, 2013, 10:38

    Oh yes, and as folks here may know, but just in case, it was a science fiction story which prompted Goddard in 1899 to speculate as to the method of reaching space and places like Mars. That story was The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, about an invasion of Earth by Martians. Ironically, the fictional aliens used giant cannons to send their fleet to Earth, much as Jules Verne did with his lunar explorers in his two Moon novels decades earlier.

    Goddard even wrote to Wells once telling him how much he enjoyed Wells’ novel and how it inspired him. Here is that story from one of Goddard’s grandchildren, who inherited that cherished novel:


  • alanborky May 7, 2013, 14:28

    Horatio Trobinson tchernik bear in mind many people who went on to have science careers or even become real life astronauts did so as a direct result of watching such frivilous distractions as Flash Gordon during the 1930s or Star Trek during the 1960s.

  • Horatio Trobinson May 7, 2013, 17:40


    Point taken. When I referred to nonsense I was talking more about Kardashian Type I civilisations than about more genuine, and poetic even if infantile works.
    In short, proposing the idea that Ray Bradbury = good, E! Television = bad.

    Does the cultural work reflect on our fortunes, virtues, and misfortunes as a species and as individuals, or is it just a parade of surgically enhanced mammary glands?
    There’s clearly a difference to me, although probably one which is hard to quantify, describing it algorithmically or heuristically.
    Of course, my aim is not to define what is the meaning of art and culture, or to determine what is bad and good for everybody. (we’ve been at it for millenia without definitive conclusions).

    But we must remember that the memory capacity of our interstellar vessels will be finite. Technology will have advanced and our vessels will be certainly capable of storing a great deal of information.

    But the inescapable facts are that we produce terabytes of information per minute, and our interstellar ships will have a finite capacity.

    Eventually, we will have to ask ourselves the questions I’m asking right now.

  • tchernik May 7, 2013, 20:01


    I agree with you. Frivolous entertainment is not bad per se. Many people are inspired by popular art for choosing into what devote their lives. And that includes scientists and prospective visionaries!


    I think I understand your point more. Yes, I also think humanity would someday need to choose and be very picky about what they will put in any interstellar mission cultural backpack.

    If interstellar travel comes to happen and it’s restricted by the speed of light, and very likely, to small fractions of it, the trips will take centuries and any popular culture, fashion and mores from Earth’s infosphere would become irrelevant as the mission goes.

    I imagine the ships could have some limited information streams being sent to them by collimated beams, but these beams could stop at any time, especially considering that people on Earth would eventually move into other things, after some decades of spending energy sending data.

    Unless the commitment to keep the ships informed about Earth news is very strong (which is more likely to happen on the first interstellar missions), the ships will eventually find themselves alone, to their own devices, information and culture.

    For sleeper or embryo colonization ships, the problem gets much worse. They are practically cut off from Earth’s infosphere since departure.

    Besides, I think (or rather, hope) we will eventually come to learn that not all memes and cultural information are the same, or that not all of it is even worthy of preservation, specially if we are attempting to start new civilizations in other stars. I’m not a cultural elitist, but I don’t see the value of stuffing their databases of oodles of frivolous 20th and 21th century series and TV shows, either.

    I have the feeling Earth’s civilization will be covered in a geological-strata-like amounts of memorabilia and popular culture information (most of it worthless), much before we even attempt the first interstellar travel. So the chore of choosing what to pack or send is indeed unavoidable.

  • coolstar May 7, 2013, 20:26

    I know this is heresy here, but I’ve never been much of a Goddard fan. By the start of WWII he was so far behind the curve that the U.S. military couldn’t find much use for him and set him to work on RATO devices, at which he didn’t have much success. Had he not been American, I have doubts that he’d be much more than a footnote in the history of rocket development. Hermann Oberth and NASA’s favorite NAZI, von Braun, are the people I think about as true pioneers. As they say on the interwebs, YMMV (and probably does).

  • Dmitri May 8, 2013, 5:22

    @Horatio Trobinson
    “When I referred to nonsense I was talking more about Kardashian Type I civilisations”

    Poor Kayne West and Kim Kardashian. Now they are the etalon for civilisation types. I bet Kardashev won’t mind his reputation being so famous thnx to a infamous tape which brought a new star to the world scene.

    (Couldn’t resist the opportunity :) )

  • ljk May 8, 2013, 9:27

    That is the second time I have seen this Kardashev / Kardashian confusion. This heresy has got to stop, or it will keep us from achieving even a Type I civilization, I swear!

    coolstar, this is why I said above that I wish Goddard had been more of a self-promoter for the good of rocket development and space exploration. Von Braun sure didn’t have a problem doing that. Had Goddard been a bit more of a showman and collaborator, who knows where we might literally be now.

    There is a time and place for humility and dignity. Getting off this planet requires otherwise.

  • Eniac May 8, 2013, 22:07

    Horatio Trobinson:

    The idea of “entertainment” is very recent, probably originated in the US, and not really an universal phenomenon.

    Not so. Entertainment is as old as civilization itself, perhaps older. As an example of non-American entertainment from several centuries ago, take music and the heights it achieved in Europe a century or two ago. It is well known that music goes way back, and if it is not Entertainment, then what? For a different example, think of Shakespeare, or the ancient Greek plays.

  • James Jason Wentworth May 9, 2013, 8:32

    coolstar wrote:

    [I know this is heresy here, but I’ve never been much of a Goddard fan. By the start of WWII he was so far behind the curve that the U.S. military couldn’t find much use for him and set him to work on RATO devices, at which he didn’t have much success. Had he not been American, I have doubts that he’d be much more than a footnote in the history of rocket development. Hermann Oberth and NASA’s favorite NAZI, von Braun, are the people I think about as true pioneers. As they say on the interwebs, YMMV (and probably does).]

    Take heart–you will not burn alone at the stake. :-) In his book “Retro Rockets” (a book of historical information and scale data for model rocketeers, which covered the pre-World War II pioneers’ rockets), author Peter Alway quoted a rocket and space historian (whose name eludes me at the moment) as saying that in the “family tree” of rockets, “Goddard’s branch was a branch that died,” which he ascribed to Goddard’s traits of being secretive and a loner. To give a few happy examples of the opposite:

    Frank Malina (later Dr. Frank Malina), who became a member of the JPL team that designed the U.S. Army’s WAC Corporal sounding rocket late in World War II (it later became famous as the second stage of the Project Bumper V-2/WAC Corporal combination), developed a vehicle whose descendants are still flying today. The pressure-fed WAC Corporal led directly to the pressure-fed Aerobee sounding rocket, whose technology was used in the Vanguard satellite launch vehicle’s pressure-fed second stage, larger versions of which have served as second stages in (among several other vehicles) the Delta and Delta II launch vehicles, right up to the present. Also:

    Likewise, the Delta II’s RS-27 first stage engine is an uprated H-1 engine from the Saturn I & IB first stages, which in turn was an uprated version of the Thor IRBM’s rocket engine. The Thor engine was an uprated Navaho booster engine, which was an “Americanized” and enlarged V-2 engine! (Dmitri would know better than I, but I believe the Soyuz launch vehicle’s RD-107 and RD-108 rocket engines are also directly descended–via several “intermediate” designs used in various ballistic missiles, the R-7 ICBM, and earlier R-7 ICBM-based launch vehicles–from the V-2 engine.) Goddard’s rockets never had any descendants (with the possible exception of the Bell X-2 rocket plane’s two-chambered, throttle-able Curtiss-Wright rocket engine); they died with him. As well:

    In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 book “The Promise of Space,” he recounted Frank Malina’s unsuccessful attempt to work with Goddard: “One well-known American rocketeer who volunteered his assistance did not get very far. I have received piquant accounts, from both surviving principals, of a visit to Roswell by an enthusiastic young aeronautical engineer in 1936. The Goddards, he says, received him cordially, but never once were the dust sheets removed from the large, torpedo-shaped object that lay in full view of his vainly goggling eyes.” One is left to wonder how different spaceflight history might have been if Robert Goddard had accepted Frank Malina into his team.

  • ljk May 9, 2013, 11:53

    James Jason Wentworth said on May 9, 2013 at 8:32:

    “In his book “Retro Rockets” (a book of historical information and scale data for model rocketeers, which covered the pre-World War II pioneers’ rockets), author Peter Alway quoted a rocket and space historian (whose name eludes me at the moment) as saying that in the “family tree” of rockets, “Goddard’s branch was a branch that died,” which he ascribed to Goddard’s traits of being secretive and a loner.”

    James, could it be from this online paper, which I linked to above in an earlier comment:


    Towards the end of the piece, the author states that Goddard’s work, if put in evolutionary terms, would be considered “a branch that died.”

    While as I have said before that I wish Goddard had been much more demonstrative about his work for the good of space technology and exploration, I am loathe to put down a man who was a true pioneer and genius when it came to rocketry and who probably did have more influence on people than we and even they may have realized at the time.

    One might also wish that the general public and politicians had been a bit more open-minded and educated to appreciate what Goddard was doing, but that is a cultural trait slow in overcoming.

    Your story about Malina’s meeting with Goddard also explains why the former had such a dislike of the latter later on. Perhaps, however, it also spurred Malina to outdo and show up Goddard for his slight, which he did. Had Malina become a part of Goddard’s team, he might have remained in obscurity and kept from the achievements he did accomplish with his own team. Competition does have its benefits.

    And Goddard did get his own US postage stamp not long after so many of his rocket patents were finally recognized:


  • Horatio Trobinson May 9, 2013, 17:30

    @fellows horrified because of my Kardashev/Kardashian heretic conflation

    Cheer up! It was purely intentional, as a put down of our pop culture-driven civilisation. You can probably tell that –should an alien civilisation dare to approach us– the vast majority of the information we produce is rubbish. Such alien explorers would really have a very hard time finding the best of our achievements tucked away in a few libraries, whilst at the same time we air Super Bowl commercials to the stars and beyond. On top of that we applaud this vacuity and debate about its merits!
    I remain unconvinced that that’s the only way, and that all civilisations (terrestrial and otherwise) necessarily have to go through this terminal stage of utter nonsense.
    For this reason I claim that my Kardashian Type I civilisation pun –besides being a pun– is both just and appropriate for our current state of cultural development.
    Oh man, it sucks having to explain puns…

    In ancient times, music was music. (i.e.: not Milli Vanilli)
    In ancient times, theatre was theatre. (i.e.: not Zero Dark Thirty)
    There was a clear dividing line between the representational nature of art and real life. So far I’m coming to terms with the idea that the only validation culture can get is that of surviving the test of time.
    If we are to pack something for our interstellar journeys, it should be actual science and ancient learnings, not gossip and reality shows.
    We all live in a Truman Show of sorts, and we can afford to tell ourselves all the lies we want here in the protective and nurturing environment of mother Earth. But for our great voyage out there in the unmerciful cold of interstellar space we should better pack the real deal. only the best ideas that can possibly help us to survive and prosper.
    Not fake reality, but reality-reality. Only the real deal will do.
    But I’m stepping into a turbulent zone where some philosophers (Virilio, Foucault, Baudrillard, or even Debord come to mind) do better than I can expect to explain in the comments section of a blog.

  • Horatio Trobinson May 9, 2013, 17:45


    You are very right in that the contents of the cultural backpack will greatly depend on the length/distance of the trips and our ability to continue communications with them.
    The last few starships our culture will produce may still have national or corporate flags plastered on them, but the truth is that Earth will no longer have any control on the success or failure of those trips. They won’t be missions in the sense that there will be nobody to report back to. Nobody to hold them accountable for their actions.
    They won’t be us anymore. They will be adults.

  • Eniac May 9, 2013, 23:33

    Horatio Trobinson:

    In ancient times, music was music. (i.e.: not Milli Vanilli)
    In ancient times, theatre was theatre. (i.e.: not Zero Dark Thirty)

    I am not so sure. I am pretty certain that ancient times had their fair share of bad entertainment. Perhaps more, even, because it was harder to collect and widely distribute the work of top performers.

  • Dmitri May 10, 2013, 6:30

    The irony of Kardashev type I civilisation is the fact that Kayne, the Kardashians, JWoww, Snooki, the Situation, Farrah Abraham, and Baby boo boo are in. They come with the package. It’s all inclusive. You must take it in face value.

    Maybe they will be promiment in 100, 1000, 10 000 years as the digital evidences of their existence is vast and available (paparazzi). I envy Stephen Hawking for being a human who can do with sheer brain power what we do with the fully functioning bodies. Maybe after winning Special Fundamental Physics Prize his net worth exceeds aforementioned but I always knew that if you are EXCEPTIONALLY good at what you do then your talent will be rewarded. Snooki & the gang proved beyond shadow of doubt that whatever it is they are GOOOOOD. I would say – have natural talent. $50mln per season advertisement income does not come just like that.

    One have to look at the reality. The reality is Kardashev made calculation based on civilisation energy consumption. Sagan wanted to expand it to add information consumption. They are both right – each iteration of civilisation requires more energy for computational and supporting infrastructure. Full Type I civ just needs to calculate the spin of a rotating black hole to exactly pinpoint the gravitational effect for the craft. Caveat is noone has ever made the same principle calculation on social level. What social status and interaction a Type I civilisation have? We as Type 0,75 have the afforementioned package. Is that utterly bad? Depends. Life can’t be all the time dead serious. There must me thought free zones to relax. I bet the brain craves for such experience as it helps to space itself in society’s social map. As far as noone will look at this topic these social phenomenons will happen. The thing with Type I, not mentioning Type 0,75, civilisation is the exponential availability and abundance of informational input. The filtration is a must, otherwise life in asylum is guaranteed. Then the peers starting to compete for profits and performance. The information tend to move toward to short bursts as the number of parallel channels have rose exponentially as well. If thing grow they create gaps. And gaps are things necessary for such emergence like Centauri-Dreams.

    Looking forward for *Kardashian* Type I civilisation.

  • Horatio Trobinson May 10, 2013, 15:29


    When Kardashev formulated his scale, he didn’t separate energy put to good use from energy we waste. All of the energy in his calculations is assumed to have a collectively beneficial application.

    My point is that we may well reach the 1.0 energy milestone Kardashev requires, but chances are that if we continue our cultural development in this direction, all of that energy will continue to be used/misused in the same proportions it is misused right now, or worse. We aren’t doing a good job with regards to energy efficiency, not even close.

    As for production of information, there must be a balance between the inputs and the outputs. Outputs can be science papers or college plays. Such a calculation is well beyond our reach, but you only have to look at the sorry state of the education system, and how failure to foster sound education reforms has played a key part in igniting revolts around the world. If we take the world as a whole, we aren’t doing a good job.

    Meanwhile, Hollywood and the media morph into a black hole of attention and resources gathering for perfectly improductive behaviour.
    They have become very good at cheating our primitive senses, extorting riches for what amounts to a monopoly on stimulation of our basest instincts.

    I know about the inpirational power of Flash Gordon, and Star Trek and the rest, but it would be impossible in today’s media and film markets to produce any such works of ingenuity. No novel, philosophically or spiritually stimulating ideas can come out of our current day media, all ideas Hollywood amplifies are now under control and tightly measured, all potential risks are systematically killed or avoided.
    Don’t take it from me, ask the experts and they will tell you how it actually works.

    There’s only one population, and mindshare is finite.
    We will never persuade anybody of taking the best direction in their best self-interest if they don’t have the basic gear to understand what’s a stake.
    I was just reading the transcript of a recent Congressional hearing on exoplanetary research, lead by Lamar Smith, and it’s really appalling how little our leaders understand subjects they get to decide on, not just for our generation but also for future ones.
    It’s all the way down from there.

    My issue is not so much with our leaders, but with ourselves, failing to acknowledge, vastly underestimating the sheer size of the work we have to do here on Earth before we can reach the stars. We’re not moving in the right direction as a society, and the onus is on the more privileged ones to inform and help everybody to have a saying in their future. If we don’t acknowledge the reality we are living in, the weight of our culture, multiple wars and energy problems will delay our future by a hundred, possibly hundreds of years. Only arrogance prevents us from seeing what happened to ancient civilisations that failed to acknowledge their lack of direction until it was too late, and a long period of dark ages succeeded them.

    I believe that making apologies for Snooki is, quite frankly, the most unhelpful approach to reaching the stars.

  • Dmitri May 13, 2013, 8:49

    Don’t underestimate the power of culture. It has brought us through all the nastines in past. Technology is a new era. There is a prove of this. This will be next megahit. Chris Hadfield is just a brilliant actor!


  • Dmitri May 15, 2013, 11:42

    Commander Chris Hadfield has pulled 10 million views in 60 hours. No sign of slowing down. I would compare this feat with Gagarin’s first flight and Neil Armstrong’s first step on Moon. I don’t know how long it took for Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber or Psy to reach 1 bn mark. Extrapolating the figures the song will hit 100 mln and 1 bn mark in 25 and 250 days.

    Bombs, nukes and bullets don’t kill people. Cultural and social biases make us do it. Rockets and interstellar propulsion won’t make any difference if there is no cultural drive. American Idol made money for Ryan Seacrest. He went and produced the Kardashian show. Without Kardashians we wouldn’t have Kardashev / Kardashian Freudian slip. For some it might be the way to Kardashev. I always have suspected fuel of human stupidity must be cosmic radiation origin, otherwise it’s almost impossible to explain it’s perpetual drive. In the same time accepting it as part of here are shiny examples of technicians who turn to cultural tools for getting wider audience attention. I’ve always admired technically literal artists. U-Ram Choe “Guardian of the Hole” for instance – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4U0ZOkpjap0

    So far we’ve always talked reaching planets and stars from technical challenges. When they are overcame then the social and cultural void will end the achievement. It’s time to think how to fit the technical advances into social and cultural domain. It requires strong personalities. It requires from technicians and visionaries to sow the seed of public interest into the subject. It requires not only to communicate with the peers but audience not aware of this.

    The way how to do it depends on peculiarities of an era.

  • Dmitri May 22, 2013, 12:07

    I think this is the picture of the decade. I think it will be in TOP 50 most influential pictures of the 21th century. There is just so many layers.

    These things give people wings. Rockets and propulsion carry people where the wings want to go.

    Chris Hadfield ‏@Cmdr_Hadfield “The only thing that delights me more than this picture is imagining her thoughts.” pic.twitter.com/tze6zCn87e