Announcing the Space Journalism Prize
by Sam Dinkin
|Why were we trapped, like The Man Who Fell to Earth, on the wrong planet? Perhaps it is a failure to muster the American soul.|
When I was in third grade in 1977, I bought a book, the Solar System (1967), by Chesley Bonestell. It was amazing and I was hooked for life. I understood this fascination no better than I understood the moving light of Skylab in the night sky. But I had bought the book because it had been withdrawn from my elementary school library’s collection, withdrawn because we knew that the solar system wasn’t like that any more. Voyager had gone to the outer planets. The Moon was not parched as Bonestell depicted it in Destination Moon; it was dusty. Most of all, the librarian knew that the astonishing future of explorers and colonists depicted by Bonestell was gone. It was snatched away like waking up from a dream when President Richard Nixon said in December 1972:
As Challenger leaves the surface of the Moon, we are conscious not of what we leave behind, but of what lies before us. The dreams that draw humanity forward seem always to be redeemed, if we believe in them strongly enough and pursue them with diligence and courage. Once we stood mystified by the stars; today we reach up to them. We do this not only because it is man's destiny to dream the impossible, to dare the impossible, and to do the impossible, but also because, in space, as on Earth, there are new answers and new opportunities for the improvement of and the enlargement of human existence. This may be the last time in this century that men will walk on the Moon, but space exploration will continue, the benefits of space exploration will continue, and there will be new dreams to pursue, based on what we learned. So let us not mistake the significance or miss the majesty of what we have witnessed. Few events have ever marked so clearly the passage of history from one epoch to another. If we understand this about the last flight of Apollo, then truly we have touched a 'many splendored thing'. To Gene Cernan, Jack Schmitt, and Ron Evans, we say God speed you safely back to this good Earth.
Why were we trapped, like The Man Who Fell to Earth, on the wrong planet? Apathy? Media saturation? Expense? Perhaps it is a failure to muster the American soul. When it was time to colonize the American West, there were journalists ready to lead the charge. One of the most famous and influential was John L. O’Sullivan. His Democratic Review coined the term Manifest Destiny in 1845, but he was already looking forward to American expansion and how it is “destined to manifest” in 1839. Such were the times that even his Whig counterpart, Horace Greeley, was busy getting colonial governors like William Henry Harrison elected President. It is time to empower such people and find the “new dreams to pursue” now.
Colonization does not need to be a partisan issue. The fabulous future that awaits promises a blue-state nirvana with no more carbon pollution, no more nuclear waste, no more immoral wealth transfers, vast parks of unprecedented size, new opportunities for longevity, research in many fields, new utopian societies, and new art, writing, and self-expression through dance. New internationalism will flower into interplanetaryism. We will discover new capacity for compassion and stewardship. The least well off among us when we are spacefaring will live like the Queen of England much as Queen Elizabeth I would gladly trade her 16th century royal existence for decent medical care, Shakespeare on video, climate control, international foreign exchange programs, and the Internet.
A red-state nirvana beckons at the same time with control over vast energy, great wealth and opportunity, huge undeveloped parcels for any homesteader, freedom to strike out like the Pilgrims, fantastic advances in robotics, new utopian economies, and new industries. There will be fantastic new opportunities to view God’s creation. New feats of personal heroism will triumph over adversity. A new security environment will ensue where we can assure that no person, nation, or natural event can ever dampen the pursuit of happiness. The average wealth will continue to rise as O’Neill’s vision for the American dream—for everyone who wants his own house in the entire solar system—comes to pass. The human race needs to be taught to fish for the wildly abundant resources that we can see mere seconds away.
So I am doing something about it. When Jeff Greason asked me to write to the Aldridge Commission in favor of property rights last May, I did and I have been writing a column a week ever since. When the best that Jeff Foust could do for my article on “a lunar vision at $2,000/kg” was a NASA picture showing hundreds of thousands of kilograms of wasteful Earth imports, I paid Phil Smith $1,000 to do a series of artwork to start to show what colonization looks like on a sensible budget.
|“This is our high destiny, and in nature’s eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it.” — John L. O’Sullivan|
Now, I need some help in tackling the entire universe, in cracking the nut that is colonization. How do we make humanity spacefaring? Who will join me in the to-be-formed Space Journalism Association to spread the word? Again, I put my money where my mouth is. I am posting a $1,000 prize for the best article promoting human spacefaring that appeared in a print or web publication during 2004. I have recruited the editor of the Space Review, Jeff Foust, and the editor of HobbySpace, Clark Lindsey, to help me to make this selection. Next year, we will seek a corporate sponsor and celebrity judges, and try to emulate the Pulitzer Prizes with its categories and resources. However, this year, we will just do it. Check out http://www.spacejournalism.com and let me know what you think.
As John L. O’Sullivan said, “This is our high destiny, and in nature’s eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it.” Let us reclaim the legacy left to us by Columbus; Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea; Heinlein; Bonestell; Armstrong; and O’Neill. It is simply not right that a space program be merely a bauble of a billionaire when all of futurity beckons. Join me to challenge and endeavor in this enterprise and reclaim these words from Nixon. Come embrace, consummate, and give birth to the idea of an eternal spacefaring species.