The View From Here

You, Me, and Chicken Little

Written by: developer

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!, Space Cadets: the sky is not falling.

I’m not really sure when optimism became passé, if, indeed, it has. Surrounded, as we are, with an elephantine labyrinth of media “channels” — oh, the marketing speak! — and each one nattering, nefarious, with the salacious doom and gloom that sells advertising (If it bleeds – it leads, et al), who can be censured for shuttering the panes against the zombie apocalypse?
Further, to make a clean breast, it must be confessed that there is more than a little malevolence abroad in our world: extremists and murderers, pirates and brigands, hegemons, assassins, barbarians, misogynists, racists, dictators, oligarchs and more.
But never was there an epoch absent such miscreants. Despite them, humanity today is more than it has ever been before. While our enhanced vision reveals more clouds on the horizon than most have seen before, these puffs, however dark, do not comprise the whole of the sky.
It’s easy to forget, with hundreds of thousands of people in strife, that there are billions who are not.
As a global space community, we vouchsafe, inspire and enable the future, propelling humanity with the the critical intellectual and physical infrastructure — voice, data, positioning, navigation, timing, information, technology and research — upon which our species relies. We are problem solvers, and, by that nature, disposed to fixate on budget shortfalls, test failures and the infamous congested, contested environment in which we operate. Too seldom, we celebrate the much more commonplace: successful missions, strong and growing commercial operations, breakthrough technologies, new discoveries, new knowledge and the friendly and peaceful collaboration of peoples and nations for the common good.
This is the space community that I know:

  • Where 25 nations can collaborate successfully on an International Space Station program that is the most complex engineering endeavor ever undertaken by humanity — and is now in its 15th year of crewed, orbital operation
  • Where 43 countries and organizations can jointly operate a space-based search and rescue system, COSPAS-SARSAT, which has saved more than 32,000 lives and counting
  • Where fierce commercial competitors routinely collaborate to save lives by supporting disaster relief through an organization called Telecoms sans Frontieres
  • Where a pioneering space launch, like Orion EFT-1, can still stir the emotions of the world, generating more social media hits than any previous event in history
  • Where technology and applications ranging from Earth imaging to weather forecasting save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars of infrastructure every year
  • Where a satellite system built for military purposes, GPS, can become the single largest global civil and commercial navigation and timing system, providing the transactional infrastructure upon which modern economies rely
  • Where a tragedy like the loss of a Space Shuttle crew can inspire the creation of a network of space-based STEM education centers

From space technologies that provide clean drinking water for stressed populations, to satellite applications that track and forecast pandemics, to advanced medical technologies and even art contests for students around the world — the list of ways in which the exploration and development of space lifts us up, is endless.
The View from Here is that, despite the thunderclouds, the sky is not falling. Our industry has much to teach the world — about working together, getting along, reaching common goals and being better together than we are alone.
It won’t be easy. It will be hard.  
Hard is what we do.

This article is part of Space Watch: March 2015 (Volume: 14, Issue: 3).