Hilary Clinton is currently the only presidential candidate with a space plan, which can't be pleasing to the scientists and scifi writers who warn that the human race must escape from Earth if it's to have any future. It's probably not surprising that 1970s astronomer icon Carl "billions of stars" Sagan was an offworld booster; nor would it boggle your mind to know that SF visionary Octavia Butler's post-apocalypse duet Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents is about why colonizing space is one of the most urgent political tasks of our time. But space travel as a political issue goes back further than that — way further.
In 1959, Philip Shockey wrote an essay called "The Ultimate Necessity of Space Travel," which was about how humans would never survive unless they left the planet. Shockey's daughter has posted the article in its entirety (which we found thanks to Paleo-Future), and it's fascinating to see early Space Age writing on a topic that has become almost a cliche in science fiction — and a nonstarter as a political platform.
Shockey points out that the sun is going to go red giant and destroy the Earth in the next 50 million years, and therefore we must start prepping now to get all our valuable Earth culture off the planet where it will be safe. What's interesting is that his ideas take a decidedly political turn once he's made this point:
The project is so huge in scope that no single country will be able to carry it through; the physical and mental resources of all the world will be required. This unified effort should produce nonviolent political and religious revolutions terminating in world harmony . . . It is difficult to see how any of the existing formal religions or political plans, except democracy, will survive scrutiny by a world population applying the scientific method to all phases of life.
He also praises the scientists who are urging President Eisenhower to buy into a 20-year plan that would bring humans to the moon.
If you want to hear a more contemporary plea for offworld planning, check out Carl Sagan's Cosmos miniseries, which is airing again on the Discovery Channel starting Jan. 8.
"The Ultimate Necessity of Space Travel" [Space Journal]