The Smithsonian Institution, the nation’s largest collection of museums, says Americans should stay home. They do not need to travel to Washington, DC and should not plan to visit any of the Smithsonian’s museums.

Okay, they didn’t really say that — but that’s what they would say if they were intellectually consistent.

A recent post on the Smithsonian’s blog makes a Politically Correct argument that Americans should not travel into space:

But why must our species continue to advance? Do we really want to keep growing? I believe that the physical limitations and boundaries of our planet, if not insurmountable by our technology, might be worth respecting. I also believe we should employ our brilliance as a species in figuring out how to live sustainably on this planet, and I would argue that it’s not our business to plunder the natural resources of any other worlds unless we can at least learn to manage and preserve our own—a challenge at which we are failing.

If the Smithsonian wants to stop our species from advancing, putting an end to space travel is a start, but the Smithsonian can do more than that. It should recommend that Americans avoid visiting educational institutions like the Smithsonian. The physical limitations and boundaries of their home states, if not insurmountable by technology, might be worth respecting. Instead of “plundering” the resources of any other states, shouldn’t Americans stay home and use their brilliance to live sustainably in their own towns and villages?

And shouldn’t the Smithsonian cease to exhibit the Moon rocks — “plunder of other worlds” — that draw so many visitors, who spend money (“squander resources”) in the Smithsonian’s restaurants and gift shops? Or is it only wrong for other people to use the resources of other worlds?

Whether the Smithsonian thinks Americans “need” to travel into space is irrelevant. Americans don’t have to demonstrate a “need” to travel. It is sufficient that we want to travel. Since the founding of our Republic, the freedom to travel has been a basic American right. The internal passports and travel restrictions which are common in other nations have always been anathema to us. We chafe at the heavy hand of TSA security, and rightly so. The right to travel does not end at the stratosphere. We
have as much right to travel into space as we have to visit Las Vegas, San Francisco, or the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC.

This freedom to travel, and the educational opportunities it affords, helped make us the great nation we are today. Exploration — travel for purposes of learning and discovery — is important and must continue, both on and off Earth. Natural resources are limited only by our creativity and ability to understand and utilize them. That’s one of the reasons why we explore.

The Smithsonian, of all organizations, ought to know that. Its most popular educational attractions are the two National Air and Space Museums, in DC and at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. But, then, the Smithsonian Institution has made odd and nonsensical statements about air and space before. The Smithsonian insisted for decades that Samuel Langley had invented the airplane. It was not until 1944 (forty-one years after the first flight at Kitty Hawk) that the Institution officially admitted that title belonged to the Wright Brothers. We hope it won’t take four decades for the Smithsonian to recognize the value of citizen space exploration.

Written by Astro1 on December 28th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration

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    bucky katt commented

    If this is the sort of person we have representing the Smithsonian, then we have serious problems. They should be shown the exit post haste.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:12 am
    Ralph Schiano commented

    Thank you for bringing that post to my attention. I’ve been fighting against that kind of short-sighted idiocy my whole life. I find it particularly offensive when it comes from the Smithsonian, the chronicler of the American pioneering spirit.

    Although costly now, space tourism and a vibrant commercial space industry will pioneer the way to less expensive access to space. If we simply look at examples at the Smithsonian itself, we see devices and modes of transportation, that were once the toys of the rich, evolve to become commonplace. It will be the same with space travel.

    In the next century we will begin to inhabit worlds beyond our own. We must be relentless in our advocacy because the US can lead, or listen to this kind of foolish thinking and be relegated to the second rate, living in the past. People like this guy can stay behind and wallow in their politically-correct self-righteousness. His opinion must not become that of the majority of Americans.Humanity is headed for the stars.

    December 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm
    Gary Bickford commented

    Just to add my 2c, the writer seems to be completely unaware of one of the essential equations of life. All life succeeds by taking advantage of externalities – by feeding from the energy and resources produced outside of its domain. ALL life. Most experts consider this to be one of the primary defining characteristic of life (in addition to adaptation and reproduction).

    One might just as easily consider the human species as the extension of the life-system of Earth producing a fruiting body that will allow Earth life to propagate to other domains. This is a process easily comparable to the process that slime molds go through, or the process of sporulation that fungi use to send their progeny to lands unknown – thereby assuring that, for example, some mushroom species are found endemic to most of the world.

    In other words, we, and our vaunted intelligence and ability to create and invent, are simply the extension of life to the stage necessary to lose its dependence on a single planet. What we are doing is as natural as a tree, a termite mound, or a coral reef. All these species construct new things – we go about it a bit more indirectly, but it’s the same thing.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm