Fred Scharmen’s Space Forces charts the history of ideas about space travel and living in outer space.
What do interplanetary aspirations say about societies, and what ramifications does space exploration have back on Earth? From the philosophical Russian cosmists of the late nineteenth century, who dreamed of humanity’s place among the stars, to the space-faring efforts of billionaires including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, this book reviews how societies have envisioned human interactions with space, and even what makes people turn their gaze to the stars in the first place.
An array of thinkers, rocket scientists, and science fiction writers are included in this survey, which analyzes people’s viewpoints to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between science and fiction: both share dreams of the future, which are refracted through genres like cyberpunk, and in the work of Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as being pondered by scientists like John Desmond Bernal. Both the poetry of Gil-Scott Heron and the fiction of Arthur C. Clarke are examined. Visions of conquest, dominion, and the suburbanization of Mars play in, as do musings on human supremacy and the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources for private profits.
Also tackled is the bureaucratization of space travel and the implications of that, including the creation of the US’s Space Force. Scharmen reveals that the most stratospheric dreams often have the smallest motivations, including nationalism and acquisitiveness. He warns of the potential peril represented by current capitalistic impulses to treat space as an opportunity for privatization and “mining the sky” and sets forth alternative visions of idealistic wonder.
Through various vantages on space exploration and colonization, Space Forces shows how the stars have captivated and called to human beings.
Joseph S. Pete
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