propagandery
propagandery:

Five Billion Years of Solitude: Lee Billings on the Science of Reaching the Stars

More broadly, speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence is an extension of three timeless existential questions: What are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The late physicist Philip Morrison considered SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to be the “archaeology of the future,” because any galactic civilizations we could presently detect from our tiny planet would almost certainly be well more advanced than our own. It’s unlikely that we would ever receive a radio message from an alien civilization in the equivalent of our past Stone Age, and it’s unlikely Earth would ever be visited by a crewed starship that powered its voyage using engines fueled by coal or gasoline. Optimists consider this, and say that making contact with a superior alien civilization could augur a bright future for humanity, as it would suggest there are in fact solutions to be found for all the current seemingly intractable problems that threaten to destroy or diminish our species. It’s my opinion that most people think about aliens as a way of pondering our own spectrum of possible futures.
…
I now believe that while life may be widespread in the universe, creatures like us are probably uncommon, and technological societies are vanishingly rare, making the likelihood of contact remote at best. I am less confident than I once was that we will find unequivocal signs of life in other planetary systems within my lifetime. I believe that, when seen in the fullness of planetary time, our modern era will prove to have been the fulcrum about which the future of life turned for, at minimum, our entire solar system. I believe that we humans are probably the most fortunate species to have ever arisen on Earth, and that those of us now alive are profoundly privileged to live in what can objectively be considered a very special time. Finally, I would guess that though we possess the unique capacity to extend life and intelligence beyond Earth into unknown new horizons, there is a better-than-even chance that we will fail to do so. The human story may end as it began - in nasty, brutish, and short isolation on a lonely, solitary planet. The book in part is my attempt to explain and come to terms with these beliefs, beliefs that I would very much like to be proved wrong.

propagandery:

Five Billion Years of Solitude: Lee Billings on the Science of Reaching the Stars

More broadly, speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence is an extension of three timeless existential questions: What are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The late physicist Philip Morrison considered SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to be the “archaeology of the future,” because any galactic civilizations we could presently detect from our tiny planet would almost certainly be well more advanced than our own. It’s unlikely that we would ever receive a radio message from an alien civilization in the equivalent of our past Stone Age, and it’s unlikely Earth would ever be visited by a crewed starship that powered its voyage using engines fueled by coal or gasoline. Optimists consider this, and say that making contact with a superior alien civilization could augur a bright future for humanity, as it would suggest there are in fact solutions to be found for all the current seemingly intractable problems that threaten to destroy or diminish our species. It’s my opinion that most people think about aliens as a way of pondering our own spectrum of possible futures.

I now believe that while life may be widespread in the universe, creatures like us are probably uncommon, and technological societies are vanishingly rare, making the likelihood of contact remote at best. I am less confident than I once was that we will find unequivocal signs of life in other planetary systems within my lifetime. I believe that, when seen in the fullness of planetary time, our modern era will prove to have been the fulcrum about which the future of life turned for, at minimum, our entire solar system. I believe that we humans are probably the most fortunate species to have ever arisen on Earth, and that those of us now alive are profoundly privileged to live in what can objectively be considered a very special time. Finally, I would guess that though we possess the unique capacity to extend life and intelligence beyond Earth into unknown new horizons, there is a better-than-even chance that we will fail to do so. The human story may end as it began - in nasty, brutish, and short isolation on a lonely, solitary planet. The book in part is my attempt to explain and come to terms with these beliefs, beliefs that I would very much like to be proved wrong.

NASA’s Astronaut Group 8 was the first selection in nine years of astronaut candidates since Group 7 in August 1969. Due to the long delay between the last Apollo lunar mission in 1972 and the first flight of the Space Shuttle in 1981, few astronauts from the older groups stayed with NASA. Thus in January 1978 a new group of 35 astronauts, including NASA’s first female astronauts, was selected.[1] Since then, a new group of candidates has been selected roughly every two years.[2]
In Astronaut Group 8, two different astronaut groups were formed: pilots and mission specialists. (With shuttle classes, NASA stopped sending non-pilots for one year of UPT.) Of the 35 selected, six were women, three were male African Americans, and one was a male Asian American. Within this group a sizable number of American spaceflight firsts were achieved:
First American woman in space: Sally Ride (June 18, 1983, STS-7)[3]
First African-American in space: Guion Bluford (August 30, 1983, STS-8)[4]
First American woman to perform an EVA: Kathryn Sullivan (October 11, 1984, STS-41-G)[5]
First mother in space: Anna Fisher (November 8, 1984, STS-51-A)
First Asian-American in space: Ellison Onizuka (January 24, 1985, STS-51-C)[6]
First African-American to pilot and command a mission: Frederick Gregory (April 29, 1985, STS-51-B; November 23, 1989, STS-33)
First American to launch on a Russian rocket: Norman Thagard (March 14, 1995, Soyuz TM-21)[7]
First American woman to make a long-duration spaceflight: Shannon Lucid (March to September 1996, Mir NASA-1)[8]
First American active duty astronauts to marry: Robert Gibson and Rhea Seddon[9][10]
First mother to be hired as an astronaut: Shannon Lucid
First Army astronaut: Bob Stewart
[wikipedia]

NASA’s Astronaut Group 8 was the first selection in nine years of astronaut candidates since Group 7 in August 1969. Due to the long delay between the last Apollo lunar mission in 1972 and the first flight of the Space Shuttle in 1981, few astronauts from the older groups stayed with NASA. Thus in January 1978 a new group of 35 astronauts, including NASA’s first female astronauts, was selected.[1] Since then, a new group of candidates has been selected roughly every two years.[2]

In Astronaut Group 8, two different astronaut groups were formed: pilots and mission specialists. (With shuttle classes, NASA stopped sending non-pilots for one year of UPT.) Of the 35 selected, six were women, three were male African Americans, and one was a male Asian American. Within this group a sizable number of American spaceflight firsts were achieved:

[wikipedia]