October, 1988

Spaceship Ecology

A new space shuttle is about to be launched with great hope that its performance will reflect the great care with which it was planned and built.  If all goes well, the space program will resume it’s course which was so tragically interrupted by the explosion of the Challenger shuttle on January 28, 1986. Space journeys up to a year or more will be planned. Since it is obvious that no spaceship with any known, propulsion system could begin to contain and to carry with it, enough food, air and water to sustain its crew for a year or more, But fortunately there is no need to do so.

All life, whether it be animal, human or vegetable, progresses through a series of chemical changes. These changes do not however, require a continuous supply of new material, they require only continuing supply of energy sufficient to make the chemical changes possible.

The planet Earth, as we have frequently pointed out, is a closed system space ship which has a limited amount of material available for the use of life systems, but which has been using that same matter over and over again for many millions of years. All successful life forms fit smoothly and completely into this cycle of ecology. Any variety of life which does not conform will leave an open end somewhere in the cycle, thereby piling up unusable material and eventually depleting its own supply. Nature has a way of coping with such species, and they either evolve into a pattern of conformance, or they soon become extinct.

Modern man (usually known as the genus Homo sapiens) or man with knowledge, has become the most flagrant of the non-conforming species and so cannot be considered as a successful life form, in spite of his knowledge. The primitive man conformed quite well; almost everything which he had used, or had discarded, was returned to the environment in a form suitable for immediate use by some other life forms. With his advance in technology however, modern man has been more and more perverse in his refusal to conform with the pattern of nature. He goes to great lengths to thwart, inhibit or destroy those very life forms or chemical processes whose natural function is to complete the ecological cycle which enables him to continue in existence. Before man discards any of his used products, he has usually treated them with substances which make them totally unusable by any other form of life. He thus creates tremendous gaps in the natural cycles which are essential to all life. The material which man discards is correctly known as ‘waste’ since it has been rendered unusable. When large quantities of this unusable matter become mixed with still unused materials of life, it becomes known as ‘pollution’. The only manner, therefore in which the problem of pollution can be solved  is through the carefully planned closing of the gaps in our ecology which are responsible for its existence and which are now threatening ours!

In the beginning Nature, or God, solved the problem of ‘Air pollution by placing on this planet, two types of life, animal and vegetable. Virtually all animal life breathes in oxygen from the air to assist  in burning the fats and sugars to produce the energy which the animal requires. This process converts some of the oxygen to carbon dioxide gas, which is no longer of any use to the animal and is emitted by it. The vegetable gathers in this useless gas and, with the aid of the energy of sunlight converts it and water, which it also gathers, into starches and sugars with which it grows, and oxygen which is left over from the process and is emitted from the vegetable, so the animal can use it again. This cycle has been going on, in the same air and water, for many millions of years, and has not used up anything except some sunlight yet.

It is this type of cycle that we must develop for use in space travel.

Daniel W. Fry