By Mark Hopkins (Fall 2016)
The National Space Society (NSS) and its precursor organization, the L-5 Society, have been promoting Space Settlement since 1975. Our ultimate goal is nothing less than the settlement of space and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity. This goal has been moving toward the mainstream at an accelerating pace.
A discussion of recent progress (up until May 2015) can be found in “We Are Winning” (Ad Astra, Fall 2015). Since then the pace has continued to accelerate. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin, using only non-government funds, have returned launch vehicles to Earth for reuse, signaling an imminent reduction in space transportation costs. Space Settlement is the goal of both of these companies. The Space Exploration Development and Settlement Act was introduced in Congress on March 16, 2016. If passed, the SEDS Act would make Space Settlement an official goal of NASA (see “Victory: The Vision of NSS May Soon Become an Official Objective of NASA”). Most recently, Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, announced his company’s plans to send the first human mission to Mars as early as 2024. Musk also announced that he will detail SpaceX’s plans to settle Mars during the International Astronautical Congress in late September 2016. This announcement is likely to cause the goal of Space Settlement to make a major jump toward the mainstream.
NSS has been using the term Space Settlement rather than Space Colonization since our beginning in 1975. All of the other organizations in today’s Space Movement were founded after us and almost all followed our lead, using the term Space Settlement. This was done because in 1975 the word colonization had negative connotations. Much of the world was made up of former colonies that resented their former status.
However, the rapid move of Space Settlement toward the mainstream in the last few years has shown that society outside of Space Movement circles, and particularly outside of space circles, prefers the term Space Colonization. The recent hit movie The Martian provides an example. NSS considers the two terms Space Settlement and Space Colonization to be synonymous. Despite the 40-plus years of the Space Movement using the term Space Settlement, society may well push us to using the term Space Colonization in the future.
The Space Movement began in 1975. Space Colonization is its goal. (For articles about the Movement, see The Space Movement). The advancement of this goal toward the mainstream is energizing the Movement. The greatest obstacle for the Space Movement has been credibility. Time and time again we have convinced influential people of the importance of Space Colonization only to have them become disenchanted after talking to space “experts” who have questioned its credibility. The ongoing destruction of this obstacle is creating an environment favorable to the explosive growth of the Space Movement.
Rapid progress toward convincing society as a whole of the importance of Space Colonization to the human future is now possible. NSS can reenergize the belief in the American dream, an ever-improving dramatic betterment of humanity, and a hopeful future for all.
This article was written by Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Space Society. The article was prepared for Ad Astra, Fall 2016.