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.
Religion is a by-product of fear. For much of human history it may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary? Isn’t killing people in the name of god a pretty good definition of insanity?
I'm sure we would not have had men on the Moon if it had not been for Wells and Verne and the people who write about this and made people think about it. I'm rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.
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.
One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn't require religion at all.
A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made possible-indeed, inevitable-the United States of America. The communications satellite will make equally inevitable a United Nations of Earth; let us hope that the transition period will not be equally bloody.
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.
Even by the twenty-second century, no way had yet been discovered of keeping elderly and conservative scientists from occupying crucial administrative positions. Indeed, it was doubted if the problem ever would be solved.
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.
The creation of wealth is certainly not to be despised, but in the long run the only human activities really worthwhile are the search for knowledge, and the creation of beauty. This is beyond argument, the only point of debate is which comes first.
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.
We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation the childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.
We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40 - and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20?
In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again.
The information age has been driven and dominated by technopreneurs. We now have to apply these technologies in saving lives, improving livelihoods and lifting millions of people out of squalor, misery and suffering. In other words, our focus must now move from the geeks to the meek.
Nowhere in space will we rest our eyes upon the familiar shapes of trees and plants, or any of the animals that share our world. Whatsoever life we meet will be as strange and alien as the nightmare creatures of the ocean abyss, or of the insect empire whose horrors are normally hidden from us by their microscopic scale.
Many, and some of the most pressing, of our terrestrial problems can be solved only by going into space. Long before it was a vanishing commodity, the wilderness as the preservation of the world was proclaimed by Thoreau. In the new wilderness of the Solar System may lie the future preservation of mankind.