Journalist Peter Ward is clearly a space enthusiast. For him, the prospect of a colony on the Moon or Mars is not a foolish one and he makes clear in his introduction that he does not subscribe to the argument most commonly espoused by critics of space exploration: that humans should solve Earthbound problems before launching into the cosmos. Nevertheless, he is both excited and alarmed.
The Consequential Frontier is split into three sections – the past, the present and the future. The first two provide a thorough account of the history of space exploration to date and a full and fascinating run-down of the key companies and businessmen (and they’re all men) working in the industry. It’s the third part where Ward makes his fears known.
From the prospect of rogue scientists genetically engineering humans more capable of surviving in space, to the huge swarms of space debris that might be spawned as thousands of private satellites smash into each other, he is not afraid of presenting a future which, if left unchecked, is terrifying. Add to this the prospect of rampant capitalists controlling colonies on Mars and unscrupulous engineers mining the Moon for all the water it’s worth, and the picture, he claims, is neither a happy or unrealistic one. Only one international treaty, created 50 years ago, currently governs commercial activity in space and Ward is in no doubt that it’s insufficient.
On the other hand, he seems remarkably optimistic. Given the fact that every commercial endeavour to date seems to be running years, if not decades off schedule, Ward’s assertion that ‘humans will land on Mars relatively soon’ and ‘a colony will follow’ might seem like wishful thinking. So too might his assertion that the ‘goals of major players, like Elon Musk, appear to be well-intentioned and true’. But, luckily, you don’t need to agree with Ward to find this book interesting.
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