Recently, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh began his broadcast to note the passing of Stephen Hawking and, along with casting doubt on the big bang, immediately attacked the idea of colonizing space, something that the late physicist often championed. Hawking, as well as other people, such as Elon Musk, suggested that the long-term survival of the human race can be ensured by expanding beyond the single planet we live on, the theory being that we should not have all of our eggs in one basket. Apparently the subject of climate change, a phenomenon Limbaugh is decidedly skeptical of, as something that can ravage the Earth, triggered the conservative media superstar.
Limbaugh argues that space colonies are impossible because (a) no place exists that we know of where we can live as readily as on Earth and (b) we couldn’t get there if there were such a place. He also maintained that it is impractical to move all seven billion humans to a new home if the one we have becomes unlivable, a strawman argument, as it turns out.
Limbaugh, sadly, sounded very much like the stereotype of a liberal when he ascribed limits to human ingenuity and imagination. The things that need to happen to transport a large number of people to another world, say Mars, and to ensure their survival are well known. Human beings are quite capable of developing the technology to start colonies on the moon and Mars and to ensure that they survive and thrive. All that is necessary is the will and the investment to make it happen. Indeed, Elon Musk is already undertaking the project as a fulfillment of his life-long ambition on his own.
The question that Limbaugh did not ask, though he should have, is why settle space?
There are a number of reasons to settle space
First, even if one is a climate change skeptic, a number of other causes could make Earth untenable, ranging from nuclear war to a dinosaur-killing asteroid strike. One does not have to move all seven billion people to ensure the continuance of the human species and the civilization that it has wrought. Even Musk, a man whose dreams seem limitless, suggests that a million-person Mars colony would suffice to be self-sustaining.
Second, space colonies would become engines of wealth creation by providing access to bountiful resources that reside beyond the Earth. Those wild-eyed science fiction fans at Goldman Sachs suggest that asteroid mining will become a trillion-dollar industry in the 21st century. The moon is also a great source of resources that can be used to spark a space-based industrial revolution.
Minerals mined from the moon and asteroids could be used to build mile-wide communications arrays, space-based solar power collectors, and orbiting factories that would use microgravity and hard vacuum to create new products. Making money and creating wealth were, the last one looked, great conservative values.
Finally, having a space frontier as a place where people could go in order to make a new start will have an invigorating effect on human civilization on Earth. Dr. Robert Zubrin, an advocate for Mars colonies, suggests that the mere existence of a space frontier will have the same salutary effect on Earth as the American frontier had on Europe, sparking new ideas, new industries, and expanding the realm of the possible.
Besides, Rush Limbaugh might find the idea of colonies in space attractive for another reason. He has made a career of inveighing against what he sees as the pernicious policies of the left, not only in the United States, but across the world. What if a place existed where the writ of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, congressional democrats and European socialists did not run? A colony on Mars, inhabited by conservatives and run on conservative principles, might be a nice place to live. The United States, after all, was founded by people who wanted to strike off the shackles of the old world and form a country founded on human freedom. Could not a nation on Mars serve a similar purpose in the 21st century? Rush Limbaugh should ponder that question before he dismisses the idea.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.