Finally, I would like to assure my many Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim friends that I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind (and often, as Western medical science now reluctantly admits, to your physical well-being). Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.
The Earth would only have to move a few million kilometers sunward-or starward-for the delicate balance of climate to be destroyed. The Antarctic icecap would melt and flood all low-lying land; or the oceans would freeze and the whole world would be locked in eternal winter. Just a nudge in either direction would be enough.
Using material ferried up by rockets, it would be possible to construct a "space station" in ... orbit. The station could be provided with living quarters, laboratories and everything needed for the comfort of its crew, who would be relieved and provisioned by a regular rocket service. (1945)
In this single galaxy of ours there are eighty-seven thousand million suns. [...] In challenging it, you would be like ants attempting to label and classify all the grains of sand in all the deserts of the world. [...] It is a bitter thought, but you must face it. The planets you may one day possess. But the stars are not for man.
It is a good principle in science not to believe any 'fact'---however well attested---until it fits into some accepted frame of reference. Occasionally, of course, an observation can shatter the frame and force the construction of a new one, but that is extremely rare. Galileos and Einsteins seldom appear more than once per century, which is just as well for the equanimity of mankind.
Every age has its dreams, its symbols of romance. Past generations were moved by the graceful power of the great windjammers, by the distant whistle of locomotives pounding through the night, by the caravans leaving on the Golden Road to Samarkand, by quinqueremes of Nineveh from distant Ophir . . . Our grandchildren will likewise have their inspiration-among the equatorial stars. They will be able to look up at the night sky and watch the stately procession of the Ports of Earth-the strange new harbors where the ships of space make their planetfalls and their departures.
The choice, as Wells once said, is the Universe-or nothing. . . . The challenge of the great spaces between the worlds is a stupendous one; but if we fail to meet it, the story of our race will be drawing to its close. Humanity will have turned its back upon the still untrodden heights and will be descending again the long slope that stretches, across a thousand million years of time, down to the shores of the primeval sea.
Some dangers are so spectacular and so much beyond normal experience that the mind refuses to accept them as real, and watches the approach of doom without any sense of apprehension. The man who looks at the onrushing tidal wave, the descending avalanche, or the spinning funnel of the tornado, yet makes no attempt to flee, is not necessarily paralyzed with fright or resigned to an unavoidable fate. He may simply be unable to believe that the message of his eyes concerns him personally. It is all happening to somebody else.
The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion. However valuable-even necessary-that may have been in enforcing good behavior on primitive peoples, their association is now counterproductive. Yet at the very moment when they should be decoupled, sanctimonious nitwits are calling for a return to morals based on superstition.