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My space inspiration

Doug Currie

November 21, 2016

I was born in 1960 in southern Ontario Canada and one of the first things that I read and interested me were children's books about space exploration and astronomy. I was attracted to the vastness, majesty and nobility of the heavens and the many secrets to find out about them. What really solidified my interest in astronomy and space exploration was the lead up and successful accomplishment of the human lunar landings by NASA in July 1969 and then a couple more times until 1972. One thing I particularly liked then and still long for more of now was to see or witness humans demonstrate a pioneering spirit in coping with an alien and relatively unknown environment to explore it and settle in it more. It is partly for this reason that I would be much more content with human exploration of large solid celestial bodies where humans could land and settle such as the Moon and Mars than to only leave it to unmanned robots. I hope the new Trump administration will give substantial support to getting astronauts to set up a long term base on the surface of the Moon or on a quicker timeline to set up a long term base on Mars. This is partly because NASA wasn't allowed to follow through on some of these things after Apollo even though they would have been technically feasible then also.

I went to university starting in 1978 right after the last year of high school, grade 13 at that time. Partly as a result of my discouragement that there wasn't much human space exploration follow-up after Apollo and also because I was away from home and not doing well in my courses in second year in mathematics I started to think more if there could be some other way that humans could go through space, including faster than light to other stars. I then saw an evangelical Christian TV special about getting the Gospel of Jesus to other countries and they offered a Bible devotional guide for reading the Bible. I ordered it and soon found out that one of the eventual blessings of trusting in Jesus would be to have a resurrected spiritual body that we can probably travel through space at the speed of thought, faster than light, but yet again manifest ourselves in a physical body mode like Jesus resurrected body. Although I would have to be patient this sounded like an excellent and quite valid solution to the speed of light barrier to explore planets of other stars. I think this is even more important now that many, over 3000, planets around other stars have been confirmed including 10 to 40 so far that could be habitable including perhaps around our nearest neighbor star Proxima Centauri. However I hope the EM drive and the Alcubiere Drive could also use technology to go faster than light to bring humans to other stars or perhaps solar sails close to the speed of light.

One of my main interests in astronomy and space exploration now are keeping up with the latest developments of exoplanets, planets of other stars, in both the new discoveries and finding out more about them. I am most interested in planets that are terrestrial or solid like the Earth and that humans, or robotic spacecraft, could conceivably land on and set up colonies on. As a Christian I don't have a problem and think it would be a good thing if life would be found on some of these other planets. This would be especially true if it is quite different from our life in appearance or in composition such as based on something other than DNA or have other blood or respiration basis for instance. For me it would especially not be a problem with extraterrestrial life to the extent of our bacteria, plants or animals but it might be more difficult if it was intelligent extraterrestrial mortal life as somehow they might need a Saviour also and the Bible is not too clear about this although there might be some allowance for this in expressions like the Heavens and the Earth and things in them that occurs several times in the Bible but that is all quite speculative. Also the SETI programs have not found any solid evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life yet either. I also find it interesting about what the environment and any life including if humans ever reach them on extrasolar planets including terrestrial ones that have larger sizes such as superearths or subearths between the size of Earth and Mars. This would especially true for those in the habitable zone. In an astronomy course I took at university in celestial mechanics they mentioned that under the right conditions a planet around two similar stars would have a figure 8 orbit. Although this might not be too habitable it would be interesting to hear how this could affect the environment on an earth-size planet especially if was close to the habitable zone. This is also one area where I am particularly inspired by realistic space art, both painting and computer generated and wish there was more of it but I heard a limitation is that book publishers don't usually pay the artists enough to make it worthwhile for them. I would also be interested on what it could be like on earth size exomoons or moons of planets around other stars that will hopefully be discovered soon. I watched the movie Avatar and found it quite interested how they portrayed an environment and intelligent life coping in an environment on a habitable exomoon. I hope the newly announced project to bring a light sail on close range past a nearby exoplanet at up to 20% of the speed of light by entrepreneur Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking and I think Marc Zuckerberg of Facebook could start on a successful voyage soon perhaps past Proxima Centauri b to get close range pictures and other data in a human lifetime.

Although I also find it interesting and would support it to explore the environment and look for life, even large scale life, like our fish or rays, sharks, squid etc in the oceans of Europa or Enceladus or perhaps other solid bodies in the outer solar system and that could be common in other stellar systems, I am still most hopeful about finding evidence of past or present life outside earth in our solar system on Mars. I hope NASA with either the Space Launch System or SpaceX can get human trips there and establish a permanent base there soon. It is possible that bacteria like life has already been found there by Viking and Curiosity since the labelled release experiment on Viking was positive but unfortunately hasn't been tried again since. The other gas chromatograph test wasn't positive on either but that could be the result of perchlorates destroying organics in the soil when the soil samples are heated. I think the European/Russian ExoMars lander will use lasers instead of an over to analyze soil samples which hopefully will allow examination of less disturbed samples rather than possible broken up remants of original samples due to over heating and perchlorates on Viking and Curiosity. There could still be bacteria or moss of other basic life below the surface of Mars if there is subsurface flowing liquid water and I would certainly find this interesting. I do get frustrated with the planetary protection requirements and hope that a better balance can be found to ensure human robots or people not destroying any possible indigenous Martian life but still allow fuller near-term search for Martian life including in more promising areas. I would also find inspiring about astronauts setting us a base on Mars and living off the land and was quite inspired with the scenario I read in the book The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin. I would also like to see more good space art about Mars and elsewhere in the solar system even places that humans couldn't get to easily but I am also very inspired by the photographs from robotic spacecraft and hope NASA can soon send new spacecraft to Europa, another one to Venus and an orbiter around Uranus or Neptune and their moons. To me Mars is more attractive than Europa or Enceladus for sending astronauts because it would be much easier to get to the more interesting areas of Mars which is the surface or just under the surface rather than perhaps 15 kilometers beneath the surface on Europa or Enceladus where the subsurface oceans would likely start. I appreciate the role of The Planetary Society in promoting solar system exploration and am grateful to be a continuing member since 1991 and enjoy that articles and pictures in The Planetary Report, listening to Planetary Radio and having a chance to respond to blogs on the web site and attend events including meeting leaders of The Planetary Society. I also am interested in other areas of astronomy such as astrophysics in the discovery of gravitational waves and the structure of the Milky Way and black holes etc. but my main interest is more planets or large moons especially terrestrial ones and that would have some significant area to explore or settle on by robots or even better humans.

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