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(fwd) Where Do We Go From Here?

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Old October 13th 03, 11:35 PM
Frank Ney
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Default (fwd) Where Do We Go From Here?


By L. Neil Smith

For Immediate and General Release

The October, 2003 issue of _Discover_ contains one of the saddest
letters I've ever read. Gil Bell, of Duluth, Georgia, writes " ... one
would have to conclude that travel out of our solar system is
impossible. The fusion, fission, and antimatter engines require too
much fuel ... The laser sail is doomed by the fact that building a
6,600-mile-wide collecting mirror is simply not feasible, and ... a
600-mile-wide sail would be torn apart by cosmic debris on a daily
basis. And why build a fusion ramjet when there's no fuel in space to
run it, and its design would not allow it to attain the speed it

"The fusion or fission engine concepts would be useful in getting
around out own solar system, but what's the use in traveling to other
planets in our neighborhood? Venus will never be inhabitable and
neither will Mars or any of the Jovian planets or their moons, and
changing the environment on another planet will never be within our
capabilities. It is fun to speculate on way that humans might
accomplish interstellar travel, but in the end it is just more science

There are lot of unsupported assertions in Mr. Bell's letter, and
a great many factual errors (most of them, I'm afraid, based on an
incredible ignorance of history), but the saddest thing about it is
its spirit of defeat. As I said in a recent essay, Americans seem to
have given up on the future. This letter from _Discover_ is typical
and symptomatic.

But it doesn't speak for everyone.

I've been reading the works of Robert A. Heinlein (as the Brits
say, "man and boy") for forty-six years, having found his books when I
was sent to the school library to spend several afternoons there as a
punishment. After all these years, I don't recall what for, more's the

In all that time (and earlier, in fact) I always expected that,
sooner or later, I'd end up space myself, maybe even die there (after
living a couple hundred years, like Lazarus Long). And although I
didn't necessarily want to move there, the one sight I always wanted
most to see in person was Saturn and its rings, from one of its inner

As I grew up, I became disappointed and disillusioned. The Mercury
program came and went, the Gemini program came and went, the Apollo
program came and went, followed by SkyLab, the Shuttle program, and
the International so-called Space Station. What they all taught us
(unless you actually care about fruitfly reproduction in microgravity)
was that the only individuals who would _ever_ be allowed to get into
space were precisely the kind of government-approved jockstraps who
were on the varsity football team when you were in high school -- oh
yes, and an occasional cheerleader -- oops, make that public school

To all the rest of us, meaning those who are "encouraged" (at the
point of a gun) to pay for these programs, the message was clear: "Get
lost. Outer space, 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 percent of all
there is, is government property, like the Lincoln Monument and Area

Nothing has happened in all that time to change that. Just look at
the bewildering maze of impossible regulations the government relies
on to keep anyone else from trying out a new vehicle design, or from
launching anything without their permission and supervision. Or the
way they squirmed and struggled, trying to keep that zillionaire space
"tourist" on the ground. Or the way they're employing the handy (if
illegal) Homeland Security concept in an attempt to shut down model

Novelist Victor Koman was dead right, when he said (in his great
work, _Kings of the High Frontier_) that the actual mission of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- its not-so-hidden
agenda, having nothing to do with the development of space travel and
exploration -- is to keep scum like you and me from ever getting into

At the same time (as Victor also points out), NASA mouthpieces
have been telling the public since the 1960s that our being able to
visit space, perhaps even vacationing on the Moon, or in zero gravity
at a space station, was "only about thirty years away". That's what
they said in the 60s, that's what they said in the 70s, that's what
they said in the 80s, that's what they said in the 90s, and that's
what they're still saying today. It's _always_ just about thirty years

In a way, you can't blame the government. Being what they are,
politicians and bureaucrats, they have a very unhealthy tendency to
project their own ethical and psychological shortcomings onto others,
especially members of the unwashed public. Even before September 11,
2001 -- and before Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered what it really
was that killed the dinosaurs -- someone in government read Heinlein's
_The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ (individuals are paid to do that; see
James Grady's _Six Days of the Condor_), in which penal colonists on
the Moon ultimately achieve their independence by threatening major
cities on Earth with boxcar-sized rocks, launched from an electric

Like politicians who push victim disarmament (erroneously known as
gun control), they're afraid they're going to get what they deserve.
So if you ever want to see Saturn's rings (or any other astronomical
wonder) up close, you must absorb the following truth and never forget
it: given their way, governments will _never_ let ordinary people into


Quite aside from the question of boxcar-sized rocks, think of the
historically unprecedented savagery with which the Union prosecuted
the War between the States. Think of similar savagery at Waco. Think
about the War on Drugs -- and recall why many folks use drugs to begin

You're not allowed to escape.

Governments will do anything -- absolutely anything, no matter how
violent or morally repulsive it happens to be -- to prevent anybody
from getting out from under their authoritarian thumb. If you don't
shut your mouth, sit up straight, fold your hands, look at them when
they're lecturing you, and spit that gum out this minute, they'll kill

However if there's on thing I've learned about politics over the
last half century, it's that, when there's something you need to do,
and government (or anybody else) stands in your way, you simply say
you're doing it "for the children" -- and it helps if you really mean

I really mean it.

I have a little daughter I sometimes regret having brought into
this world because it's become such a dark and horrifying place. If I
believed that she could live her life in some of the places I've
described in my novels -- that I'm describing again in the novels I'm
writing now -- I would do virtually anything I could just to make that

And if I could go there myself ... Well, there just might be a

Roughly a hundred years ago, Lord Robert Baden-Powell was having a
tough time, don't you know, in one of Britain's last fun wars, because
the soldiers she shipped to South Africa by the, er, shipload, didn't
have a clue how to survive in the open country. Their foes were Dutch-
African settlers -- "Boer" means "farmer" -- who lived and worked
there very day. They knew what plants to eat and where to find decent

When Baden-Powell got home to Old Blighty, he created the group
that was to become known as the Boy Scouts, to fix the shortcomings
he'd seen in Africa. The idea was imitated in many other countries,
including the United States to impressive effect. I was in the program
myself, from 1954 as a Bear Cub, to about 1963, by which time I was an
Explorer Scout, an Eagle, and a Brotherhood member of the Order of the
Arrow. I also held 23 merit badges, a God & Country Award (believe it
or not), a translator bar (German), and a whole ladderful of BSA/NRA
sharpshooter bars. Although the roots of the Boy Scouts are sordidly
statist, scouting was practically my whole childhood, and a very good

About the same time I first got into scouting -- and well before
the Soviets' Sputnik scared the Eisenhower Administration ****less,
spitless, and witless -- I began to collect newspaper clippings and
magazine articles about space and space exploration. I also bought a
book about going to the Moon on a visit to the Chicago Museum of
Science and Industry -- the author opined that no single government
would ever be able to afford such a trip, so the idea must be turned
over to the United Nations; and wouldn't that have been interesting?
-- and I'd vowed that very evening to stand, someday, on the Moon,

So what have I found in all my experiences that might be useful in
solving our little space problem? The basic idea is simple, it's just
a lot of hard work. At the moment, I'm writing _Ceres_ (a sequel to my
1993 novel _Pallas_) which concerns itself with terraforming asteroids
and preventing "extinction level events" like the one 65 million years
ago that killed the dinosaurs. _Ceres_ is not meant to be anybody's
fantasy (although one of my former editors informed me that I'm not
qualified to write on this subject); it's meant as a blueprint for the

I'm also doing research now for another novel, _Ares_, which will
stand, chronologically, right between _Pallas_ and _Ceres_. It's about
the men and women who terraform Mars, despite violent opposition from

At the same time, I've begun collecting ideas and material for a
third book, the working title of which will be (for lack of anything
better) _The Space Scout Manual_. That book will try to do three

First, it will help young people (I'm aiming the book at a certain
mindset, rather than a given age group; it should appeal at some level
to everyone of both sexes between the ages of 5 and 20) to prepare
themselves for working, living, and eventually settling in space, in
more or less the same way that my old Boy Scouts of America manual, _A
Handbook For Boys_ (1955 edition), helped to prepare me to survive --
and even prosper -- in several different kinds of wilderness on this

The book will also contain detailed instructions and suggestions
for establishing your own local chapter of what I'm presently calling
(again, for lack of anything better) the "Space Scouts" and everything
necessary to affiliate it with a national organization of the same
name. Unlike a great many other organizations I've been involved with,
I want this one always to grow from the ground up, not from the top

The _Space Scout Manual_'s third mission will be to establish a
political constituency for abolishing NASA and getting government out
of the way of space exploration. If the book, and the organization it
creates, are useful and interesting enough, then within a few years,
there should be hundreds of thousands of young Space Scouts and maybe,
a few years after that, millions. Politicians and bureaucrats will
eventually be up against an enormous group of voters who are educated,
tough, who won't take "No" (or even "Give us another 30 years") for an

I want this book to get into conventional distribution channels
and to show up on paperback racks everywhere. I want this book in
airports and grocery stores where the words SPACE SCOUT MANUAL will
leap out at all those who had almost -- but not quite -- given up the

Please note that the manual will not be about the current hardware
of government space exploration (which is constantly changing anyway)
but about personal physical, mental, and moral preparation. It will
draw on history, and on both factual and fictional sources. Also, it
will give its readers the beginnings of a decent science education
(another thing public schools were never up to), and encourage in them
a proper skepticism with regard to public education and the democratic

Another reason not to get bogged down in such details is that
there's no telling what methods of spaceflight will evolve if this
idea works.

The book's moral outlook will be rooted in the Bill of Rights and
the libertarian Zero Aggression Principle, but it will not preach. It
will assume from the outset that individuals own their own lives and
the products of their lives, and that no one has a right to initiate
force against another human -- no, make that _sapient_ -- being for
any reason.

The book will advocate "Reconstitutive Unanimous Consent" as the
preferred means of making group decisions and settling disputes. It
will also advise politicians and bureaucrats that, from the moment
that the first off-planet settlement is created, on Mars, on the Moon,
in the Asteroid Belt, or wherever, it should reasonably be expected to
become politically independent of Earth whenever its people want it to

Don't let any of the above mislead you, however. This will not be
a book about libertarian or constitutionalist philosphy. It will be a
book about getting into space and staying there. It will be guided as
much by the scientific method as it will be by the Zero Aggression
Principle. Its largest section, by far, will be a detailed survey and
commentary (despite that editor's view that I'm not qualified to write
it) on everything that's known, at the moment, about the Solar System,
including its constituent star, its planets, moons, planetoids, and

It will also talk -- again in detail -- about all of the many
reasons we might want to see these things close up, and even go to
live on, in, or among them. Those reasons will range from what might
be called the "spiritual" -- because it's the destiny of humankind and
a good first step to the stars -- to the exceedingly practical: our
species won't survive another rock like the one that put an end the
Cretacious; we're 15 million years overdue, so we have to go out and
stop it, the topic of a lecture I delivered to the Eris Society in

Your thirty years are up, NASA.

They've been up a couple of times over.

There will be no more waiting politely. Even if it has to be done
like the moldy old joke -- the hotel clerk admits that a room is
available, but you'll have to make your own bed; upstairs you find
you've been supplied with a hammer, saw, and lumber -- it _will_ be

So this is what I've given up electoral politics for -- at least
this decade, when the goodguys are powerless. But I think I've traded
up. I'm ready to make my own bed. And to plant the seedlings for the

How about you?

* Thanks for the title, Mr. Knapp -- or was it Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
================================================== ======================
Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23
books, including _The American Zone_, _Forge of the Elders_, _Pallas_,
_The Probability Broach_, _Hope_ (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection
of articles and speeches, _Lever Action_, all of which may be purchased
through his website "The Webley Page" at http://www.lneilsmith.com.
Autographed copies may be had from the author at .

"You want to get Voldemort? I'll tell you how to get Voldemort. He
casts 'Crucio', you cast 'Avada Kedavra'. He puts one of yours in
St. Mungo's, you put one of his IN THE GROUND! THAT'S the Hogwart's
way. And THAT'S how you get Voldemort."
- The Untouchable Harry Potter
United Airlines Must Die!
Abuses by the BATF http://www.elfie.org/~croaker/batfabus.html
Old October 14th 03, 07:17 AM
Vincent Cate
external usenet poster
Posts: n/a
Default (fwd) Where Do We Go From Here?

You're not allowed to escape.

Governments will do anything -- absolutely anything, no matter
how violent or morally repulsive it happens to be -- to prevent
anybody from getting out from under their authoritarian thumb.

Many people think they can not escape and that the government
will try to prevent them from leaving. But if you live in a free
country, like the USA, this is not really true. Any US citizen
with money to buy a plane ticket can leave. I left the US and
got rid of my US citizenship. It was not hard. It just took a
morning in the US consolate. I did it soon after leaving school,
before I had any money. You don't even need to get rid of your
citizenship to live in another country. A Libertarian could
well be happier living in a country without income tax, where
the government does not even know anything about your income
or expenses.

Check out my site, http://votewithyourfeet.com/

The basic idea is you should look over all the countries out
there and pick the one that best suits you. Sure it is not for
everyone, but it is amazing how few do it. There is a mindset
that you can not leave, but it is not correct. What makes it
hard for most people to leave the US is that they don't want to
leave behind all the good things about the US, not that guys
with guns are keeping them in.

As for getting into space, check out my site:


-- Vince

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