I’ve been reading astronomy all weekend. I’ve kind of missed it since I first took astronomy in university (and with all the changes in spaceflight going on – space tourism, woohoo! – I think I’d better brush up). Somehow I got an A in astronomy (no, not just staring at stars all year long) and nearly flunked accounting (even though I aced accounting in high school – university level accounting and high school accounting are NOT the same). Okay, well, I was under “extenuating circumstances” the year I was studying accounting. Still had to re-do accounting though because less than a C grade was not acceptable for the program. (The business school was actually wondering why I didn’t just do a math degree. Lol. I did get accepted into the math program, I just opted for business for some insane reason.)
I’ve been wanting to go back to school (for the third time now), but have been torn between law school overseas (because all the law programs in North America now seem to be business focused, but some law schools in Europe have programs on international human rights law) or maybe astrophysics (if I can hack the science now that I’m older and not lazy like I was in high school). Then again, I’m not keen on going into debt again to pay some institution for subjects I can learn on my own, so I might not go back for anything at all.
Lately though, I’ve been leaning towards studying astronomy and astrophysics because law (particularly human rights law), for the most part, seems too easy in a way. Not to sound conceited or arrogant, but a lot of the issues in human rights seem to have straight-forward, logical, sane solutions. The problem though is that people en masse aren’t sane or logical or straight-forward necessarily. Work in human rights dwindles down to plain and outright politics (which I understand, but don’t love; frankly, I think politics is b/s, and I never even played office politics when I was working). Funny enough, as a teenager my family told me I should probably go into politics because I’m passionate about some issues and I have strong opinions on most things. My response was “Hell no”. It seems like with human rights, being involved in politics is unavoidable. At some point, you get dragged into it. Human rights work is also terribly emotionally draining and exhausting. Even just reading and writing about it can zap you for a few days. I can only imagine what it’s like if I was dealing directly with a human rights case. As rational as a person can be, some cases will just get to you because you will feel helpless at times and you will feel frustrated because you feel that you just can’t help so-and-so or some group of people.
Why astronomy and astrophysics? For me, it’s clear. It’s time for humans to be able to get off this planet. It’s time to colonize (moon, Mars, Jupiter’s moons, etc.), and I really plan on being one of the first to go. (Leave me to my dreams people!). Sure there’s some politics involved with convincing governments to fund space programs, but those politics are arguably less stressful than the politics in most (probably all) human rights cases.
I’m not saying I’m going to ignore human rights issues. Even if humans do begin to colonize other worlds, inevitably these issues will come along for the ride (get too many people in one small boat and inevitably some will start fighting). It’s important to understand these issues, so we do not make the same mistakes over and over. In some distant future, if we manage to be able to travel “to the stars”, I also think that space travel should be a human right (so long as it is feasible, as under our current economic system, it may not be feasible for a long time). This idea stems from the opinion that travelling today should also be considered a human right. Human rights law as it exists now allows nations/countries to have border controls. I think this is an obsolete idea today. Border controls are tools of nationalism. Nationalism has no place in the today’s world – certainly not in a world where we can communicate all over the world in an instant making friends who live on the other side of the world; and also travel to anywhere in the world in less than a day. People should be able to freely travel with no fear or chance of being unreasonably held in a foreign country; and to properly ensure that, border controls need to be eliminated. World travel should be a human right and, in the distant future, space travel should be a human right.
In my opinion, if humans want to survive and if we want to see our civilization last, it’s important that we look beyond Earth as a place to live. Not saying that everyone has to race to get off the planet. Certainly, there are some people who might want to stay here; and definitely, there should be a population remaining on Earth, but I do think the option to live elsewhere is important for our civilization. As our world population continues to grow, we are more pressed for space to live than when humans first landed on the moon 42 years ago. (You’d think humans would have landed on Mars by now! But well… it was really politics that got us to the moon… another rant, another time.)
Throughout history, humans have proven to be adventurous and there have always been explorers. What happened to this sense of adventure? Where are the explorers now? Are some people (*cough* politicians *cough*) just self-satisfied with life as it is that they don’t want to know more about the universe? Have some people just given up on the idea of space travel? Why don’t we put more pressure on our governments world-wide to emphasize space programs? (Note: has anyone else besides me noticed that there are no political parties devoted to promoting space travel and continued studies and research in the relevant fields? I may not like our political systems, but sadly you have to work within the framework that’s already in place to make the changes you want. I dislike politics and I don’t want to start my own political party, so someone please start a “Space Party” or something like that. “New Millennium Party”, maybe? Something!)
That being said, space programs like NASA’s should be open to everyone, not just U.S. citizens. More accurately, it should be turned into an international program. Failing that, we need to start an international space program. The European Space Agency (ESA) is a good start. Maybe they could merge NASA and ESA and start including other countries. (Note: It looks like they may have started this process. See “International consensus on joint space exploration”.)
There is also commercial spaceflight and space tourism. As pessimistic as I can be about putting the future of human civilization in the hands of a few corporations, I think that commercial ventures in spaceflight will get us into space sooner than government ventures alone. Governments no longer have to contend with other governments, but also with other corporations – corporations that have more money than governments to spend on building spacecrafts. My hope is that the corporations and the governments will be able to co-operate on space ventures in order to bring the reality of space travel to humans sooner. (If you read various articles on space.com, it does look like this process is starting.)
In the meantime, I’m going to refresh my knowledge of basic astronomy and physics. My personal home study curriculum now includes anatomy, physiology, astronomy, physics, some languages (Korean and Spanish; for Chinese, I’ve decided to concentrate on the reading and writing instead of the oral language) and a few other subjects of personal interest. All this on top of taekwondo training right now and my other personal goal of writing at least one novel in the science fiction and fantasy genres (oh yeah, another reason why I should refresh my knowledge of astronomy). Eek! Loads to do.
Your local knowledge junkie