Continuing with themes in the stories for Lunatics… Here’s number five:
Failsafes and Adaptation
Space is a dangerous place, don’t get me wrong. But then again, so is Siberia
or Alaska. Or the Sahara. There are dangers all over the world that are
quite sufficient to kill an exposed human without important
life-support or supplies. We don’t worry about that most of the time,
because we’ve adapted to these dangers. We do that through the equipment
we carry (starting with clothes), through the behaviors we learn, and
through the environments we create for ourselves.
Part of that adaptation happens already when engineers work through the problems. It
may be a staple of science fiction for an airlock to suddenly and
unexpectedly open, venting all of the air in a room. It’s a simple plot
complication. But it’s very unrealistic, because engineers spend a lot
of time making sure that things like that won’t happen — it’s too
obvious. So those things are built to be extremely failsafe. When things
go wrong in space, it’s usually a lot more subtle than that.
What will matter for space pioneers is developing the new repertoire of
equipment and habits that they will need to be as safe in space as
people are in hostile environments here on Earth. Space isn’t all that
different or all that dangerous — as long as we are prepared for it.
And space pioneers will be.