When I first started this Spacefaring America blog in 2007, the conjunction of “space” and “faring” into “spacefaring” had not yet entered common usage. While humans had been seafaring for tens of thousands of years, the notion of extending this three-dimensionally into the endless frontier of outer space had not yet earned its own word. Many consider this an incongruous notion indicated by their reluctance to remove the hyphen from “space-faring” and speak to the normality of humanity becoming a true human spacefaring civilization.
Speaking at the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium in Denver, Colorado, last week, the Denver Post Business quoted Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, as saying, “I want millions of people living and working in space. I want us to be a space-faring civilization.” I doubt Mr. Bezos inserted a hyphen into his oral statement, but the editor at the newspaper apparently thought he did. In the process he took a very informed view of the future of human civilization and subtly moved it into the fringe category. I doubt this was the intention, but it was the result.
Modern humans genetically emerged somewhere in Africa and, over the next several hundred thousand years, migrated by foot and sea across most of the planet. Becoming seafaring required technological innovation and courage to place trust in the engineering ability of those constructing the boats to reach then unknown lands well beyond the horizon. These brave humans had a word for seafaring and I would expect that it lacked an implied hyphen. Seafaring was their way.
Several hundred thousand years later circumstances now require that we become a spacefaring civilization for the very same reasons that many became seafaring – overpopulation, a terrestrial lack of unclaimed needed resources and land, reduction in conflict, etc. Our most immediate need is to replace fossil fuels with space-based sustainable energy. The starting point to do this, we must undertake the mindshift to become a spacefaring civilization in heart and mind. The starting point is to jettison the hyphen, add “spacefaring” to the spell check dictionary, and think of humanity as a “spacefaring” civilization for this is what we now are!