The day before the James Webb Space Telescope was launched (December 25, 2021), I noticed a prominently displayed, handwritten “protest-like” sign with this exhortation: “Buy books from people who want to sell books not colonize the moon.”

Except as a base station, for mining and/or possibly with robots; within the past 50 years, who’s been talking about colonizing the moon?  The moon is a fossil, which is to say that there is no atmosphere. Besides, “we’ve already been there and done that.”

Conversely, Mars is rich in minerals and resources; and has an atmosphere.  NASA, other scientists and entrepreneurs are actively planning to colonize Mars. Robert Zubrin predicts humans will land on Mars by late this decade. Elon Musk predicts that by 2050 there will be a city of 1 million on Mars.

Ahem, my dear booksellers: have you heard of the James Webb Space Telescope?  It was launched from French Guiana on Christmas Day–and what a hopeful story!  It is likely the grandest scientific endeavor of the 21st century.  It will travel 1 million miles away from Earth and will orbit the Sun at the second Lagrange point, selected as “a great place from which to observe the greater Universe.”

It was an international collaboration with NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency. It’s reported that over 300 universities, organizations and companies across 29 U.S. states and 14 countries were involved in this awe-inspiring collaboration.  This level of global cooperation cannot help but benefit humanity.

The JWST may be the greatest “Christmas movie.” Certainly it had the largest production cost at $10 billion. But one must consider cost over time and benefit. It has been developing for 30 years and could be operational for more than 10 years.

Spending money on space exploration does not take away from “fixing” poverty and other problems on Earth. On the contrary, space research and exploration creates professional and technical jobs; and creates new technology benefiting all.

But lets ask the Indians about this: In 2013, India launched a Mars orbiter on the first attempt, at far less than the cost to make the movie “Interstellar” ($165 million); at a cost of $74 million which is 11% of NASA’s Mars MAVEN orbiter of $672 million.  Yes, costs are relative to circumstances; and poverty is relative to the country. But the real question is: Why and how did India, one of the poorest countries in the world, find the hope and ingenuity to extend its reach so far beyond its poverty, and do such a stellar job of it?

One day we may need to leave our planet in order that our species may survive; and booksellers won’t want to be left behind. There are many more reasons for space exploration and research.

It is the nature of mankind to be curious, to wonder and to explore. If we become inward, and squelch the innate yearning to explore, our civilization will be lost.

Speaking of space telescopes–open your intellectual aperture, don’t be so short-sighted !  Consider reading outside your usual genres and comfort zones.


(See also my article:  “Exploring Spaces is Our Destiny”)