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The billionaire space race epitomizes capitalism’s destructive obsession with growth

Mars ain’t the sort of place to lift your children, laments the Rocket Man in Elton John’s timeless basic. In truth, it’s chilly as hell, however that doesn’t appear to fret a brand new era of house entrepreneurs intent on colonizing the “final frontier” as quick as attainable.

Don’t get me mistaken. I’m no sullen technophobe. As lockdown tasks go, NASA’s touchdown of the Perseverance rover on the floor of the purple planet earlier this yr was a hell of a blast. Watching it jogged my memory that I as soon as led a highschool debate defending the movement: this home believes that humanity ought to attain for the celebs.

It should have been across the time that Caspar Weinberger was making an attempt to steer President Nixon not to cancel the Apollo house program. My brothers and I watched the monochrome triumph of the Apollo 11 landing avidly in 1969. We witnessed the close to catastrophe of Apollo 13 – immortalized in a 1995 Hollywood film – when Jim Lovell (performed by Tom Hanks) and two rookie astronauts narrowly escaped with their lives through the use of the Lunar Module as an emergency life raft. We knew it was thrilling up there.

I keep in mind later going to see Apollo 13 (the movie) with a pal who wasn’t born when the mission itself befell. “What did you think?” I requested as we got here out of the cinema. “It was OK,” stated my pal. “Just not very believable.”

But we children had been glued to our black-and-white TV units the whole week of the unique mission. We watched in horror as CO₂ ranges rose within the Lunar Module, we endured the infinite blackout because the returning astronauts plunged perilously again to Earth, and we held our breath with the remainder of the world because the anticipated 4 minutes stretched to 5 and hope started to fade. It was a full six minutes earlier than the digicam lastly got here into concentrate on the command module’s parachutes – safely deployed above the Pacific Ocean. We felt the endorphin rush. We knew it was plausible.

That was 1970. This is now. And right here I’m once more on the sting of one other couch, within the lingering uncertainty of the time of COVID-19, ready for indicators of arrival from one other re-entry blackout on one other barren rock, devoid of breathable ambiance, 200 million miles away. When the Perseverance Rover lastly touches down on the floor of Mars: that very same exhilaration, that very same endorphin rush. It’s fairly tough to witness the jubilation behind the masks at NASA’s mission management with out feeling a glimmer of vicarious pleasure.

But NASA’s intelligent science experiment is simply the tip of an expansionary iceberg. A teaser, if you’ll, for an formidable dream that’s being pushed sooner and sooner by big business pursuits. A curious twist in a debate that has been raging now for nearly half a century.