'We are fascinated by space. Rockets and space shuttles are the stuff of our dreams. But the dream is rapidly turning to nightmare and we may justifiably wonder where it is taking us. Strangely, questioning the merits of space activities seems shocking, excruciating, outrageous. How can that be so if the spark of human genius is to be found uniquely in space activities? Perhaps we need to move beyond or debunk the myth of space. Without engaging in nihilism or provoking bitter controversy, we need to conjure another relationship with the idea of space.
Although far removed from the fairly abstract concerns of cosmology or astrophysics, the issue of borders has arisen with the conquest of space. Not in the sense that borders have been pushed back, for that is not the case, but rather in terms of their having finally disappeared from the Earth’s surface. It is quite striking that many astronauts have commented on how artifical our state borders seemed when they looked at the Earth from space, which makes them sound almost naïve given how obvious that is. It was strange to hear how astonished they were by the idea of national borders being invisible from space.
Rockets have not made the universe accessible to us. After all, the distance between the International Space Station and the Earth is comparable to that between the peel of an orange and its flesh. As for the the distance between the Earth and the Moon, compared to our galaxy it amounts to only a tenth of the thickness of a hair compared to the Earth … And our galaxy itself is nothing but a tiny “molecule” in the cosmic fluid. It would be quite ludicrous to take our limited forays into space as representing real access to the deep universe.
The frontier that has disappeared is not the one that separates us from interstellar space, for that indisputably remains. Rather it is the arbitrary boundaries of our countries, our states, our nations, the physical non-existence of which paradoxically astonished the various astronauts who have had the opportunity to observe the Earth from space. We seem to have so deeply internalised the idea of these fictional walls that their absence from the real landscape is seriously disturbing. We had forgotten the superficiality and obsolescence of this drab grid imposed on reality. The fact that highly-trained, ‑educated and ‑qualified men can be astounded by the continuity of land is deeply significant.
Especially since almost no one is affected by borders. Of course, they can be lethal. Refugees die at closed borders, as we are all too tragically reminded in the news. This brutal violence is all too real. But for most living creatures borders do not exist. Billions upon billions of them belonging to millions of species cross borders every day without any idea of their existence or the slightest pause for thought. None are aware of borders, not birds or bees, earthworms, mice, trees (which move from generation to generation) or microbes. Our partitioning of the world seems almost ridiculous in its arrogant stupidity, although we once believed it to be justified and virtually immutable.'
Read more: The Conquest of Space is Turning into a Nightmare
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