Space Exploration or Space Race?


The air belongs to everyone; the best things in life are free.

Maybe not. Air space, air quality, and aerial views are subject to ownership, pollution, and obstruction today.

When space exploration began, we felt a thrill seeing Earth as a whole sphere. Consciously and unconsciously, this created the sense that humans are bound together on this planet in common consequences. But our own human nature doesn’t fully understand our interconnectedness. Space exploration became the space race.

When the first satellites went up, bringing us images of weather patterns and ocean currents that played supra roles in the drama of nations, we received a larger context. I was hopeful that these images, beyond rhetoric and beyond political philosophies, could create a unifying awareness of our fragility and need for cooperation.


My wish was that a space perspective would engender a set of laws between nations creating a common purpose girded by space law. Like admiralty law controls how the oceans are governed— accommodating for navigation, fishing rights, territorial waters—I believed we could evolve to develop more comprehensive, more beneficial principles to oversee space.

It was particularly painful to see my dream die.

First China shot down its own satellite to demonstrate that they could—and to show they might use that power against others as well. The USA and Russia have done the same. And now India joins that pack. In March 2019, India shot down its own satellite.

Think of the debris from each of these smatterings. The pieces of the blasted satellites will float on and on. There are no vacuum cleaners in space. Obstacles are dancing around the same orbit in which the space station and working satellites fly.

What strikes me about this bullet to my dream is that blowing up a satellite is not conquering territory in the classic sense. It is destroying another country’s ability to communicate. The life or death of information and communication are now more vital than citizens’ life and death.

When I think about military history, information lines were always a critical target, from capturing runners to blowing up bridges to encryption messages. So maybe it is only the technology that has changed, not the way we proceed. Maybe the costumes of our offenses and defenses have changed, but not the narrative of the play we call history. Still, it hit me like a thud, that the wild blue yonder does not belong to everyone.

It belongs to the latest technology.

Technology's New Lens


Technology's New Lens

We often don’t realize how much technology shapes our daily lives. A few decades ago, a cell phone was something out of Star Trek. But now new technologies seem less and less like science fiction and more like essential parts of our world. What we don’t realize is how much this can affect our perception.


For example, the new Nokia 8 allows you to take a picture of what is in front of you as it also records you and what is behind you. This is called a “Bothie” now adding to selfies, allowing people to take pictures forward and backwards simultaneously. The concept is simple—two lenses. But it blows open our habit of perception. Will we start to perceive like the proverbial teacher with eyes in the back of her head?


3-D printing is another way of seeing in new ways. It incorporates a full-sphere visual of the object being replicated. The blueprint of a hand tool can be sent to the International Space Station, where a 3-D printer creates the tool for astronauts to use. This cuts down on payloads launched and allows for devices to be created as they are needed. But it wouldn’t be possible without the technology that allows us to see in multiple dimensions. Inside the space station, astronauts float and summersault to move about. They tether themselves to a spot with a foot latch to anchor themselves to a place on the cylinder-shaped interior walls. Without gravity, our way of seeing the world changes. When the first crew left earth they were astounded by the sight of our Earth from outer space, it allowed them to see our world in new ways.

Robotic Surgery.jpg

Even healthcare is rearranging. Robotic assists during medical surgery become a 360-degree eye that can image the space around and under the bones, nerves, tissues, muscles, and organs being operated on.


These new ways of recording, seeing, moving, working upend our basic assumptions. We can feel unmoored, as dizzyingly adrift as an astronaut floating in space. The ability to see all around us at once will be an acquired perception, much like a blind person suddenly given sight needs to learn to distinguish the depth of fields, the outline of forms. Add virtual reality to these multiple lenses, and the job of making sense out of what is real or imagined, what is forward or back, or what is in around the corner, requires a major adjustment in our senses and how we make sense of the world. The question is: What will you do with this new sight?