Space Huns: The Mental Side of Space Exploration

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Pablo Edronkin

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Exploring space means travelling thorough it, of course, but before committing to such an adventure there are several mental issues that one has to solve.

The universe is big, so vast and complex that modern cosmological theories deal not just with it but with "multiverses" and "super spaces" or "super cosmos;" these are parallel universes, probable or real, that coexist with our own much like books in a shelf coexist within a library space. And far from pretending to elaborate on a Borges-like metaphor, such cosmological visions constitute ways to understand something still as unreachable as the atom was for Democritus.

Exploring space is not just a matter of rocket science but more than anything else, mental abstraction: When a rocket scientist reaches the final design of a rocket he has already done a lot of work in many other areas for which there is little empirical evidence. Almost everything comes from abstraction. This is fine, but one potential shortcoming of this attitude is that by being too much focused on the hardware, such scientists may lose contact with other things that are nevertheless very important.

For example, if you build a rocket or spaceship to go to another planet, what would you do there? And we mean not just experimenting, but what will that environment mean to you in similar terms to what our Earthly environment means to you? Would you consider it licit to do things like terraforming that planet or would it be more correct to leave it untamed and unspoiled?

If we take our own ecological performance on Earth as a guide, the news should be taken as bad and the forecast even worse: Even in the case of developed countries that support "advanced" legislation in environmental issues in reality only have legal structures hanging in the balance by very weak forces.

Corporations in those countries are precluded from doing certain things there because of fear of the effects of legislation passed by the same politicians that look otherwise adducing that they cannot do anything in different jurisdictions, when those same corporations build subsidiaries or industrial facilities in other countries where they can operate more discretely and do what they cannot do at home. In other words: It is not a matter of compromise, and it is not a matter of moral rectitude in environmental terms what move most politicians to pass environmentally-friendly legislation but the fear of electoral punishment. So, if voters don't see the effects of the whole process, then they have nothing to fear and thus, they look the other way when those corporations that they intended to protect society from manifest their intend to go make trouble elsewhere. It is like outlawing murder in your city only to see contended how serial killers migrate to another town to do what they do best.

With this mental state of things the only possible educated guess is that if the sacking of natural resources is so easily done here on Earth as long as the immediate and palpable victims are not voters, with such a miserable lot of people what would happen in other planets away from any sort of third-party audits would surely be disastrous for the local environment. Thus, the mental side of space exploration and the need to develop a new type of ethics should be considered as important as technology and science in space faring. After all, we wouldn't like to be looked upon in the future as some sort of Space Huns, would we?

If we cannot understand the importance of things like this, we may not be able to avoid the destruction of other worlds.

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