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 by Jon Burras
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The Answers Are Not In Outer Space
"To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before"
-Unofficial Star Trek movie theme-

        Human beings have always had our share of intrepid explorers. From Marco Polo to Christopher Columbus, we have shared in the rewards of their adventures and discoveries. As Lewis and Clark explored the Western United States so too have we witnessed a man step foot on the surface of the moon. From Western rocket launches to long and dangerous sails of Pacific Islanders hopping across the Pacific Ocean, the world of exploration has come to tantalize us all.
        Ever since the first satellite was placed into space by the Soviet Union in 1957 we seem to have been mesmerized by what exists outside of our planetary atmospheres. We have built space stations and witnessed many space shuttle launches and landings. We have placed giant telescopes into space like the Hubble Space Telescope and have sent orbiting probes to far away planets like Mars and Pluto. We have launched thousands of satellites, from military to communications satellites, into our own Earth's orbit.
        In the not so distant past it was just a handful of countries that embraced a space program-USA, Soviet Union and China. This small number of space venturing countries existed because of the enormous cost and the engineering involved. But in recent years other nations have become involved in the space program. From India to Japan, North Korea to Israel, several other nations have joined the brotherhood of space explorers. As of 2016 there were at least thirteen countries with space launch capabilities. In addition, a number of private corporations have now sprung up that are launching satellites and space ships into orbit and beyond. While it might appear that space is the next unexplored frontier, this disturbing trend makes one begin to wonder.
While it is true that some satellites have greatly benefitted our lives, this might be a smaller number than one thinks. A weather satellite might be helpful when documenting a fast moving hurricane. Ship and airline route planning might have been enhanced along with the mapping of terrain by the use of satellites. But do we really need satellite radio or satellite television? The art of map reading with a Thomas Guide while driving was sufficient for most of us until Siri came along to tell us where to turn on the roads through GPS navigation satellites. A rental car can now be tracked by its company to monitor where you have driven. Many space adventures are more for convenience and luxury than for necessity.
        There are currently over 3700 satellites in Earth's orbits. Only eleven-hundred are currently operational with over twenty-six hundred being dead satellites and no longer operational. Space is also littered with an enormous amount of junk that we have put up there. There are more than 21,000 pieces of space junk larger than 10 cm as well as 500,000 bits and pieces between 1 and 10 cm in size. Welcome to our newest junk yard.
The United States leads the pack of operational satellites with 576, of which 132 are considered government vehicles and 146 are military weapons. The remainder of the 576 U.S. operational satellites are commercial satellites from private corporations
        With all the time, brain power and money being spent on space projects, are these space explorations really benefitting us? Just because we believe that there may have been water on Mars at one time does not change our planetary existence here on Earth. Knowing the molecular consistency of the rings around Saturn isn't going to change the quality of your life. Aren't most of these space projects just a very misguided way to spend money? The answers to our problems are not going to be found in outer space but right here on planet Earth. Being a "rocket scientist" might mean that you know very little about what is happening right here on Earth and might not be the correct measuring stick in which to judge our knowledge base.
        Our planet is besieged by many critical issues from overpopulation to global climate change. We are reminded every day of the poverty in the world along with the starvation. Homelessness (even in wealthy countries like the United States), is at an all time high. Over a billion people in the world still do not have clean drinking water which leads to many illnesses and diseases. Wars or local skirmishes prevail in dozens of hot spots on several continents. The United Nations continues to provide peacekeeping forces in several areas of the world. Rogue terrorists proliferate in many regions and diseases like malaria are rampant in many areas of the world.
        In addition, rainforests continue to be decimated, wild rhinos and elephants are being killed in record numbers and pesticides are depleting the natural soils along with the dangers of their toxic runoff into the world's rivers and lakes. Addictions are mounting every day and the War on Drugs has been no help at all. Racial tensions abound, teen-age pregnancy remains high, high school drop out rates remain elevated and the murder rate in many urban cities has skyrocketed. Hackers have stolen everything from credit cards to government secrets and cyber wars are happening every day between countries and freelance computer geeks. Not to mention the fact that honey bee colonies are dying in vast amounts every year.
         It seems that the analytical mind would rather send a rocket ship into space rather than look for a simple answer much closer to home. The mind of politicians, engineers and bureaucrats is to collect more data and engineer their way out of problems. This mindset somehow believes that if we finally discover an alien peering back at us with one of our Mars rovers that we have found the Holy Grail. Looking outside for solutions is the classic approach to the analytical mind. This small-minded way of seeing the world has left us with many more problems still unsolved.
        It used to be that countries would use their space programs to bolster their national egos. The "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960's was a full scale war played out not on a battlefield but in engineering labs and sub orbits. The first country to place a man on the moon would become the symbolic ruler of the Earth. (The United States won that war and for decades stuck its national chest out as the leader in space exploration.) Government space programs are usually just hidden shell businesses hiding a militarized industry.
         Soon China became involved in the space race and this symbolic conquering of intellectualism continued only on a much grander scale. Now we have hundreds of spy satellites, killer satellites, and other spying probes to contend with. Space is literally littered with space objects, from tiny pieces of "space junk" to full scale killer satellites and space stations.
        Soon the communications industry took over the space race.
        Telephone companies found it helpful to launch their own satellites to enhance their business model. New designer services like satellite radio and satellite television came into existence. As of late newly-rich billionaires have been able to start their own rocket ship companies and compete with government agencies like NASA. These new companies include the following: Space X by electric car manufacturer Elon Musk, Blue Origin by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow Aerospace by Budget Hotel magnet Robert Bigelow and Virgin Galactic by British billionaire Richard Branson.
        What do you buy after you already have a Porsche, Ferrari, business jet or high speed motorcycle? You build your own rocket ship company of course. Having a rocket ship company for these wealthy billionaires is like testosterone or a new toy. Some say that a Ferrari or a fast car is a substitute for an inadequate male anatomy while others believe that these fast and splashy land and air vehicles are showing other males who is the alpha male, like a pack of wild male water buffalos competing for who now has mating rights over other males in the pack. Owning a rocket is just another extension of this desire to be on top. These owners cannot really explain why they wish to go into space. There is no logical reason except that they want to be the alpha male with a rocket to ride.
        Taken a step further, social media company Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to place a satellite over the African continent so that all Africans can now be connected to the internet. In addition he plans on launching 1000 solar powered drones in the air that can fly for 3 months at a time and act as relay stations for his internet project. Here we have a continent where poverty is rampant, disease is horrendous, war and strife persist and water is scarce. Yet Africans will soon be able to connect to Facebook and "like" each other as the rest of the world is doing. Not to mention the fact that now Africans will be able to purchase Barbie dolls from Amazon.com and Mark Zuckerberg will make billions more each year in advertising dollars. Now there is someone with his priorities straight. (sarcasm)
        No matter how many satellites my cellular phone company shoots into space I still cannot get a signal in my own home. Verizon, can you hear me now?
        There is very little to learn of real importance from space adventures. A probe might find water vapor on Pluto, So what! A telescope sends pictures back of exploding stars. So what! Even if you could determine that a mile wide asteroid was heading directly for the Earth there would be nothing that you could do to stop it. Time to just bend over and kiss your rear end goodbye.
         However there are many things that can be done here on Earth with the time, money and resources being wasted on space adventures. The NASA budget for 2016 is 19.3 billion dollars. With that money we could develop a military style campaign to stop poachers from killing elephants and rhinos for their tusks. We could use micromanaging of water resources to make sure that every village or town had clean and adequate drinking water. We could ensure that emotional education was mandatory in all schools to help reduce the amount of addictions. (Yes, all addictions are based on choices because we do not want to feel something. Genetics play no role in addictions). We could make a concerted effort to stop using fossil fuels, enter into a 100% renewable energy society (solar, wind, hydroelectric, hydrogen, etc.), and take responsible for unclear communications with countries while making a purposeful effort for a peaceful world.
        We could re-examine a foreign policy that is not working but based on keeping our military in over one-hundred different countries in the world. We could examine why the United Nations is so ineffective and all of the scandals associated with the World Bank and World Health Organization. We could stop the destruction of the rainforests and begin a massive forest regeneration project. Whales and dolphins would be made important as the oceans would begin a revitalization program. GMO foods would be banned and recycling would be mandatory everywhere for everything. We could build giant aqueduct systems to transport water from areas of flooding to areas of drought.
        "To go boldly beyond where no man has gone before" does not mean to send another probe into space or requisition billions of dollars to send a manned mission to Mars. This classic phrase really means to go into the space between one's ears (the human mind) and figure out how to have a bold relationship with nature and learn how we as a human race can come together on a more peaceful existence.
        The answers are not out there in outer space but held deeply within the human spirit.
         "To boldly go" means to sit at a bargaining table with feuding countries or ethnic groups and not leave until you come up with an agreement that is mutually beneficial to all. We can eliminate the politics at the United Nations where some countries have more authority than others and where nations are not really united. "To boldly go" means to stop the way normal business is done that protects profits and corporations over people and the planet. "To go boldly" means to use our hearts and brains to solve the problems on this planet, most of which we have created ourselves.
         This current small-minded approach to feverishly collect more data from space is creating more crisis's here at home. We do not have to look outside of our solar system for a new planet in order to escape to after we have messed this one up. What we do have to do is to look into our souls and make challenging decisions that start to heal this planet. Another rocket ship, satellite or probe is not going to save our world. The answers are not out there in space but right here on our own planet. Are we willing to "go boldly" into those answers and stop distracting ourselves with another rocket launch? In the meantime, enjoy your satellite television.