On the way home from the Space Access 2012 conference yesterday, we drove by Meteor Crater, Arizona. I’m not much of a photographer, but I take pictures anyway. Here’s a few of my favorites:
While I was standing there looking at this pretty darned impressive hole in the ground, I started thinking about Larry Niven’s quip about how “Dinosaurs went extinct because they didn’t have a space program”. As I said on Twitter during the drive, I don’t think our space program would actually do us much good in stopping an extinction-level meteor strike, even if we had 5-10 years advanced notice (which we most likely wouldn’t have because we’re not doing the NEO search in the way that would actually give us much advanced warning).
I think a better way of thinking about this would be to say that “Dinosaurs went extinct because they weren’t spacefaring. Unfortunately, neither are we–yet.”
Speaking of spacefaring, I think that Paul Spudis’ article about the seafaring vs. aviation analogy for space was spot-on in illustrating this point. This is why I’m worried that the destination/mission focus of so much of the space debate is driving things in foolish directions. I actually side with Paul in thinking that cislunar space (including the surface of the Moon) is where it makes the most sense for us to develop ourselves into a spacefaring (and not just space-visiting) civilization. I just think a lot of the debate is on destinations versus whether we want to be forever stuck with one-off missions or whether we want to establish the kind of transportation infrastructure that enable something more like what Paul described (and ultimately what would be required if we want to be able to avoid repeating the fate of the Dinosaurs if it turns out some rock out there is addressed with our name on it).