RE-ENGAGING EARTHRISE

A PERSONAL STATEMENT FROM EARTHRISE INSTITUTE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT ALAN HALE

APRIL 9, 2018

After being dormant for several years, in July 2017 I posted a personal statement to the Earthrise Institute web site, describing some of the personal struggles that had consumed me during those years. I wrote the statement as I felt myself emerging, at long last, from the deep personal hole I had been in, and it represented a significant step in the overall healing process. It was ambivalent, at best, concerning any future directions that I might want to take with Earthrise, but at least it still represented that step on what I hoped was the right path.

Several months have elapsed since I posted that statement, and I am happy to report that the healing process has continued, and, indeed, has accelerated. A three-week-long road trip (which I describe in one of my "Continuing With Comets" entries) that I took in August 2017, at first to reconnect with my colleagues from the Icarus Interstellar project and then to view the total solar eclipse from Corvallis, Oregon (where my younger son Tyler was living at the time) helped significantly in clearing my mind of much of the turmoil that had been cluttering it for so long, and provided fertile grounds for giving me thoughts on proceeding with Earthrise. During the past several months I have also been seeing a lady who has been very patient with me and who has been good to me, and I am very grateful to her for providing me the companionship that has helped significantly in furthering the process of healing.

One of the primary themes I discussed in my earlier statement was that of humanity's earning the right to travel into space. I continue to stand by the thoughts I expressed along those lines, however, rather than just standing around and watching, I've decided that I need to get busy and place my efforts into seeing that we do earn that right. While there are still plenty of negative and horrible things happening in our world, at the same time I am also seeing plenty of good things happening in that world, and perhaps there is reason for optimism that, overall, humanity is on the right path (even if it's the "three steps forward, two steps back" variety). One thing that especially encourages me is that it is the younger people, the Millennial generation and their children, who seem to be leading the way on this. To reiterate what I wrote in my previous statement, it will be they who determine whether humanity earns the right to space, and who will get us there if that's the direction they wish to go; from what I'm seeing, maybe that's just what they'll do.

With all these thoughts in mind, it is now time for me to re-engage Earthrise. I am going to start with what I know best: comets and asteroids, i.e., the "minor bodies" of the solar system. For the past few weeks I have been developing the framework of an educational curriculum that discusses these objects not only as physical objects in and of themselves, but also the interrelationship they have with our planet and our society, including both the past and the future, as well as their location within the "bigger picture." Within this context I will note that I am a member of the Advisory Board of the company Deep Space Industries, which has been formed to develop the infrastructure and processes for extracting resources from these "minor bodies." There are almost innumerable resources within these objects that can be of immeasurable value in fulfilling the needs of our society here on Earth; getting to, and extracting, these resources will not be an easy task, but to borrow a phrase I have heard uttered in a similar context, "we . . . do the[se]. . . things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard" -- and because the health and progress of human society on Earth, and beyond, depend upon them.

For starters, I am shuttering the "Continuing With Comets" effort that I described in my previous statement, and instead am incorporating that effort into a "Comet Resource Center" that will be maintained on this web site. I expect to expand this on a continuous basis, to include asteroids and other related phenomena, and become, as the term "Resource Center" implies, a place where students and other interested people can obtain information about these objects, including information on how to observe those that are accessible.

Within this context, I am happy to announce that Earthrise has formed a collaboration with the Las Cumbres Observatory, a global network of telescopes located at the sites of some of the major astronomical observatories around the world, thus accordingly providing worldwide coverage. The Las Cumbres Observatory has already been instrumental in providing valuable data for several notable astronomical investigations that are currently going on, and the Earthrise curricula that I have been developing will incorporate observations with its telescopes into both educational and research capacities.

The timing here is interesting and appropriate. During the latter months of 2018 several bright and notable periodic comets will be making visits to the inner solar system. In addition to being primary targets for observational efforts within the curriculum, these all had previous returns at some rather pivotal times in my life, and perhaps help establish a connection to my activities now. I also point out that my father, were he still alive, would be celebrating his 100th birthday in September 2018; while it is true that he and I had a somewhat rocky relationship for a non-trivial part of my adult life, we fortunately were able to patch things up during the last few years of his life before he passed away in 2002. In any event, he was the person who helped get me interested in astronomy in the first place all those years ago, back when I was in Elementary School -- and, in turn, it has been my study of astronomy that has been instrumental in producing the global worldview that I possess today.

I want to emphasize that my overall intent here runs far deeper than just the educational efforts I have just described, and those that might come later. These are mere stepping-stones; in keeping with the overall mission of The Earthrise Institute, all these, and all future efforts, are to be global in nature, and indeed I have already begun approaching potential clients both here in the U.S. and internationally. If humanity is really to expand into space at some point in the future, it needs to be humanity as a whole, and that is the foundation for what these efforts are all about. And even if, for whatever reason(s), the younger generations decide not to go into space, a unified human society that is no longer plagued by wars and by hatreds is still worth striving for.

These efforts, and those to come, take money. So, yes, I intend to start fundraising, and I would ask all those reading this to contribute whatever they can, and perhaps more importantly, to spread the word. Yes, part of the funds Earthrise collects will go towards my salary, but I live a pretty simple and inexpensive lifestyle, and have no intention of changing that. The bulk of the funds will go towards helping Earthrise expand its efforts and in acquiring the resources it needs to continue that expansion and in fulfilling its overall mission. The Earthrise Institute is a U.S. tax-exempt 501-(c)-3 nonprofit organization (documentation available upon request).

More importantly, though, these efforts take people. I cannot do this alone. Furthermore, I just turned 60 years old last month, and while I would like to think that I still have some productive years ahead of me, there will obviously come a point when the advancing years will catch up to me. In keeping with the overall thoughts that I have expressed here (and in my previous statement, for that matter), one of my top priorities is to recruit some younger people who share these dreams -- Millennial generation and younger -- into this effort, who can continue, and can expand, the activities I have described here, and who can adapt them as necessary into our ever-changing world. There is a lot of brain power out there that I want to get involved in this effort, and at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future I want to be able to pass the baton on to those leaders, and then -- to the extent wherein it is necessary -- stand aside, while they continue the quest.

It has been a long and at times difficult road for me, and these past few years, in particular, have been especially difficult. But, at long last, I am beyond that now, and I am ready to move forward -- and although it took a while, I am now convinced that there is something worth moving forward to. I ask everyone reading this to join with me in this quest, at the very least in spirit, and for those who are so able, to contribute financially. The up-and-coming generations, those who will lead us into the future and who will write the story of that future, are the primary beneficiaries of those contributions. Let's go do what we can to make that positive future for humanity a reality!

 

One of the most awe-inspiring sights I have seen recently is that of the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle this past February 6. Watching the rocket lift off, and seeing the resuable first stage boosters perform a simultaneous touch-down, gave me a feeling of "maybe we really can do this after all!"

These two images were taken ten minutes apart by Tim Lister with the Las Cumbres Observatory's facility at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile on February 9, 2018. The moving "star" between the two images (near center) is Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster.