Photo Finishes and Birth Pangs


I suspect that our race's tragedy has been played endless times. It may be that an intelligent race has to expand right up to its disaster point to achieve what is needed to break out of its planet and reach for the stars. It may always -- or almost always -- be a photo finish, with the outcome uncertain to the last moment. Just as it is with us. It may take endless wars and unbearable population pressure to force-feed a technology to the point where it can cope with space. In the universe, space travel may be the birth pangs of an otherwise dying race. A test. Some races pass, some fail . . .

-- Robert Heinlein, I Will Fear No Evil

If the barbarians at the gates don't bring about the downfall, the US government just might. When the lights finally go out, there won't be any places to run to on the Earth. America is the last stand on this planet. If that fire is extinguished, the only safety valve left for the ideals of liberty and individualism to be nurtured will be the frontier of space.

The next several steps might involve mere tourism, but SpaceShipOne's flight today signifies the first move in blazing a trail of exit. When the day arrives, sovereign individuals who cherish their freedom might have only one place left to escape to.

And when that time comes, we're not taking the state with us.

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