The Grand Design

Robert Duncan-Enzmann

The Grand Design

Dreams become plans, plans become operations, and operations reel away into history and nostalgia.

The writer approaches the subject of space mission planning with more than a little humility. Saying that mission planning is an equation in which scientific, engineering, political, and economic returns are optimized in terms of cost is an oversimplification. Behind such a simple sentence always lies the question: why?

The writer thinks he knows why and will try to explain his view, commencing with analogies: All men have some capacity to thrill to a physical race, a great intellectual struggle, a contest between man and his environment, a contest between man and man, or the struggle of a man with himself. Perhaps this is because there is a little of each of us in all such contests and contestants. The thunder of applause in Olympic stadiums is for all of mankind-not for the victor. A man may have done just a little better than has ever been done before. The applause is for the defeated too. They did their best. All normal men can thrill to the struggles of surgeons over a seemingly hopeless case; win or lose, the surgeons do their utmost.

The feelings are similar during contests of manned machines on the Indianapolis Speedway or when we pay tribute to a lone researcher-both to the researcher who swiftly came to his conclusions and to him who toiled for a lifetime. The same feelings are understood by men who humbly toil through the night to chip and break ice from a mine car, or the lone peasant working with a mattock to till a field by hand. The writer knows – he has done both.

Now, the foregoing is not offered to suggest that space exploration is an intellectual Olympic Contest played with manned machines. Space exploration is more, much more than this.

The motivation is suggested by questions and answers such as: “Why climb Everest?” “Because it’s there!” “Why do you work with the natives of the Congo?” “Because I love them, and they have so little.” “Why do you try to build a unified field theory?” “Because it fascinates me, and I love the work “Why have you prepared this great Socio-Anthropological thesis and plan?” “Because I want the world to be better, and I want people to be happier.”

The writer feels that there is an underlying theme in all these suggestive questions and answers. He sees in them a drive to excel physically, to increase man’s individual physical and mental prowess, to add to man’s store of knowledge, to increase continually his capital investment in machines and research facilities, and to better the lot of all individuals.

The motivation, or Grand Design, is the spread of mankind and its descendants through interstellar space – the universe. The writer believes we may live to see the launching of the first unmanned, and perhaps even manned interstellar probes. Today, in 1966, we stand watching the final assembly of the Apollo system, which will make manned landings on the Moon possible, and, soon thereafter, manned exploration of Mercury, Venus, Mars, and certain comets and asteroids. The technological difference between the aircraft of the sunny days of 1936 and the Apollo System of 1966 is perhaps as great as the technological distance between the Apollo and manned interstellar flight to distances of ten light-years.

The technological possibility of interstellar space flight is close. The motivation is as ancient and as fundamental as the urge that caused protozoa to organize themselves into Metazoa, to creep out of the sea onto the surface of the lands, there to organize societies that could commit a fraction of their biological and material capital to a thrust into Solar – then interstellar – space.

In summary, the writer sees the Grand Design as a partly conscious, partly fundamental drive by mankind to find new ecological niches in the universe. The ecological niches should be locations where the coupling of manned machines to the environment will be better than 100%. In other words, he should be capable of creating new human and material capital without support from Mother Earth.