Is Space Race 2.0 going anywhere?

Human beings have a very special relationship with the stars.

We like to say that we are made of the same material as they are.Countless civilizations have scrutinized the heavens based on the constellations to shape their myths, and even built some of their most symbolic buildings seeking to resemble or pay homage to some of them. The Egyptians and the Mayans are good examples. One might think, perhaps, that this is a thing of the past. However, that would be a mistake.

Our fixation with the heavens is different, less mythical and more material, but the link is still strong.

We have built probes that have already travelled to the farthest reaches of our solar system. Telescopically explored beyond the limits of our own galaxy. And the mystery, like the universe itself, and as is often the case, grows bigger as we learn more.

In the West at least, the fascination for the firmament is still, to say the least, curious. It is strange to think that we eat thanks to what the soils provide us -by the way they are rapidly degrading because of our voracious and careless way of exploiting them-, that we depend much more directly on them than on the stars, and yet we would surely be able to quote a few astronomers (Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, Kepler...) and no expert on the soil. Soil scientist. Even the word sounds strange to us.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the sky has always been related to the sacred, to the gods, and the earthly to sinners, to death. Somehow we become ground when we are buried. While in life we aspire to stardom, to the heights that only a few reach, we all know that, in the end, we will be companions of the earth. This may partly explain our fixation on escaping our inevitable destiny, fixing our gaze on the farthest place, the one we least understand.

Curiously and paradoxically, reality is more complex, and we are beginning to discover it. Says Professor of Ecology David W. Wolfe, author of the book The Underground: "There are more creatures in a handful of ordinary soil than there are humans on the entire planet.. There is so much to discover in the soil, we haven't paid enough attention to it before. But even so, the investments devoted to the study of soils are still very modest compared to those devoted to the study of the heavens, the stars and the planets.

All this helps to understand why we are still engaged in the space race. In a certainly different one from how it began. A space race 2.0. No longer in the midst of the Cold War between superpowers, but one between the richest men on the planet, desperately looking for something to entertain their egos and expand their profits. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Three middle-aged to elderly white males who represent what we should be running away from, and yet we are still fascinated by. Let me explain: we are at a crucial moment for life on Earth. The latest reports from the scientific community leave no room for doubt. It is a defining moment, either we start to be able to limit ourselves, to mature, to stop needing to grow to keep our economic system running, or we are going to crash.

Philosopher Bruno Latour makes this clear in his book Where to Land. The fight of the 21st century is not between conservatives and progressives, or between left and right. It is more between moderns and terrestrials. Simplistically, we have become too modern, but we must accept it, without falling into nostalgia and traditionalism that attach us only to our own lands and to exclusionary nationalisms. The destiny of humanity is common.

We have to curb emissions, not increase them with such megalomaniac projects as space tourism for a few millionaires.

And in fact, it seems that if there is an answer to at least mitigate the climate problem we have already unleashed, it is in the soil. In carbon capture and sequestration. That is, we need to understand how to meet the challenge of storing as many greenhouse gases as possible in the soil. In that race we are in a hurry to move forward.

And despite the evidence of the need to slow down, and fast, we continue to press the accelerator, as if there were no limits, as if they were not already close, or some of them had already been surpassed. Although the magnates of the world insist on embarking us on meaningless projects such as terraforming Mars -when it is most likely that if we follow that scheme before We will terraform the Earth-such projects of infinite expansion are for the moment inadequate and impossible. There are other priorities. Although these three billionaires are just the best representatives of something that is wrong with our modern cultures. The need for perpetual expansion.

An example of megalomania to avoid: in the Sierra Diablo Range, Texas, tycoon Jeff Bezos has invested $42 million in a very unique long-term project. A clock that will run for 10,000 years without anyone intervening. The clock ticks once a year, and one of its hands changes only every century. So the cuckoo sounds only once every millennium. According to Bezos himself, "the clock will outlast our civilization". And seeing the rate of growth of his company and the degradation of the nature that sustains us, it is very likely that he is right.

"I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this," those were the statements after his last space walk.

And it's actually worse. We're not just paying for his whims through the purchases we make from his giant company. Both Musk and Bezos are fighting over the grants and contracts that governments and their space agencies can provide. NASA seems to have settled lately on Musk's Space X project. But it is clear that while the world may be too small for all three, at least for their egos, what it is not too small for them are the public funds to support their projects.

We cannot afford to idolize the most "expansive", the limitless. We must take them down from their pedestal, and limit them - in short, we must tax the projects with a high carbon footprint. If we want to get to the skies so fast, we will neglect the ground so much that we will end up losing both through greed. And no one denies that we must continue to look to the stars, researching and exploring. But it is better to do so without forgetting the state of the ground you are treading on. Lest by looking up so much, you trip and fall.

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