Having infested the Earth and ravaged its resources, the desire to breed and colonize other planets increasingly occupies our fantasies. A recent conference on space architecture confirms that our galactic ambitions are fast being materialized...
Projects under discussion include Spaceport America, an airport under construction in New Mexico, designed by architects Foster & Partners, that will serve as the terminal for Virgin Galactic's space flights. Companies like Galactic Suite are offering orbital reservations in their yet-to-be detailed, space resort for the frequent flyer to the stars.
The Tate in London had sponsored a competition to render its next museum in space. Sandy Nairne, Former Director of National Programmes at the Tate had said on their website, "In order to fulfill their mission to extend access to British and International modern and contemporary art, the Tate Trustees have been considering for some time how they could find new dimensions to Tate's work. They have therefore determined that the next Tate site should be in space...." The project is an ongoing forum and results from the 2002 competition can be seen at Tate in Space.
Given the chance to start afresh with the blank slate of space, we've made a bit of a mess. Between the moon and us lie smatterings of debris, drifting spacejunk from crashes, wrecks, explosions - about 50 years worth. Abandoned rocket fuselage and spinning plastic will, within our lifetime, be turned into fly-by historical tourist attractions on future commutes to the moon. Space-drifts of flotsam, clouds of nuts and bolts, discarded plastic, perhaps even geo-centric lingerie will result in interesting lunar eclipses, but we are likely to get used to it.
Space remains just out of reach of minds, and in land-bound dreams we fly or leap, and in nightmares fall from great heights, still subconsciously following Newton's laws of physics
It is a challenge to design for emptiness. But confronted with emptiness we only wish to fill it. Will gazing down at the planet give us room to speculate? And what if, mid-orbit, impelled by the vertiginous gloom, we wish to retch, would the vomit bags be designed for zero-g?
Stephen Hawking says:
"Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill... It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years, but if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space. That is why I'm in favor of manned, or should I say, 'personed' spaceflight."
Whether an armchair traveler exploring virtual worlds or a mountaineer in search of the next highest thrill, through technology we've exceeded the frailness of our bodies, but perhaps not our propensity for boredom. Why not buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic, Space Tickets for $200,000, price of the return journey is included.