Is there life in space? Within the solar system, which we can reach and are now beginning to explore, the answer may be: Nothing but spores and bacteria. Perhaps the answer is: Nothing. Beyond our region of space the answer may yet be: Civilizations and cultures of greatness and magnificence untold. But we have not yet learned to detect them or to communicate with them.
As this has become apparent there has been a reaction against many of the more utopian hopes associated with space flight. Less than fifteen years ago John Kennedy could commit the nation to explore "this new ocean," with widespread hope that we were entering a new Age of Discovery. Today it is fashionable to believe that our problems can find solution only on earth and there is nothing in space which can aid us in any way.
This is not so. If we cannot find planets fit for us to live on, or if Mars is not up to our fondest hopes - very well. We can take our own life into space. We can build colonies in space, as pleasant as we want and productive enough to markedly improve humanity's future prospects. And, we can begin to do this anytime we please.
T. A. Heppenheimer is a planetary scientist with a Ph. D. in aerospace engineering and is presently the Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Max Planck Institut fur Kernphysik in Heidelberg, Germany. Author of approximately 40 articles about planetary science, which have been published in such periodicals as Science, Icarus, Astronautics and Aeronautics, and the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, his skill in putting difficult scientific concepts into interesting and understandable language is evident in Colonies in Space.