Griffin’s NASA vision: Colonize outer space with American cultural values

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On May 30 we noted NASA Administrator Michael Griffin’s dubious comments on global warming, which were aptly characterized by Jim Hansen as “incredibly ignorant and arrogant,” and by Jerry Mahlman at the National Center for Atmospheric Research as showing that Griffin is either “totally clueless” or “a deep antiglobal warming ideologue.” We were a bit surprised that, at the time, none of the media coverage recollected Griffin’s far stranger statements about the purpose of human space flight, in an interview with the Washington Post a few months after he assumed his position as the head of the space agency.

Here are excerpts from the full text of the interview, published as “NASA’s Griffin: ‘Humans Will Colonize the Solar System’,” Washington Post, Sunday, September 25, 2005; B07

[T]he goal isn’t just scientific exploration….it’s also about extending the range of human habitat out from Earth into the solar system as we go forward in time….In the long run a single-planet species will not survive. We have ample evidence of that….

Now, you know, in the sense that a chicken is just an egg’s way of laying another egg, one of our purposes is to survive and thrive and spread humankind. I think that’s worth doing. There will be another mass-extinction event. If we humans want to survive for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, we must ultimately populate other planets….

I’m talking about that one day, I don’t know when that day is, but there will be more human beings who live off the Earth than on it. We may well have people living on the moon. We may have people living on the moons of Jupiter and other planets. We may have people making habitats on asteroids. We’ve got places that humans will go, not in our lifetime, but they will go there….

I don’t know the date—but I know that humans will colonize the solar system and one day go beyond. And it is important for me that humans who carry—I’ll characterize it as Western values—are there with them.

You know, I think we know the kind of society we would get if you, for example, carry Soviet values. That means you want a gulag on Mars. Is that what you’re looking for?…

Well, I mean, there are other stars in our near neighborhood…four light-years away…12 light-years away….

What does concern me is that where other people go, the United States must also be. I’m not trying to stomp other people into the ground, but I would like to be assured that wherever the frontier of human civilization is, that people from America are there as well….It should be viewed as an investment in carrying American culture, American values.

Well, no wonder Griffin doesn’t seem particularly concerned about how the administration has been sabotaging the NASA Earth Science program by cutbacks in support for scientific research and space-based Earth observations, in order to channel more funding toward human space flight. It’s not as though Earth is the only planet we humans have, right?

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