Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Space Child Has No Name

One of the problems to surely face the first child conceived in outer space will be her awful name. Her future parents (and they walk among us today, bank on it) are going to name her something unbelievably dumb... you know they will.

I don't and won't blame them for what they're going to do. It's not like any of us would perform any better if tasked with choosing a name that is already certain to be on history's lips for quite some time. They'll temporarily lose their minds and name her something ridiculous. We'll try not to laugh too hard when we hear it, and that will be that.


I think humanity finds itself now in the very early days of the next Space Age--the real Space Age--the one based on commerce. Which, and don't let the foolish or mean tell you otherwise, is and has always been a good thing.

People will pay incredible sums of money for a fifteen-minute ride into outer space. Many thousands of them have already paid their deposit, and the seats aren't even upholstered yet. And like any service or commodity for which there is a demand, the cost is going to come down.

Richard Branson's ships will fly, and eventually to hotels. Weightless research laboratories will facilitate breakthroughs in nanotechnology as yet even undreamed. And the unlimited, renewable supply of energy that our sun is kind enough to spew will be collected by giant, orbiting arrays and efficiently distributed to every country on Earth. New opportunities will present themselves to untold millions of restless men and women of all nationalities and creeds--the likes of which haven't been seen since we first learned to float structures on water.

Will it solve every problem? No, of course not, and thank goodness for that. Life would become intolerably boring if there weren't any problems to solve. But what shall keep us away from the dark slopes of irreversible evil that have and always will, line humanity's path like freeway exits you didn't mean to take? Same as always of course--the dark slopes of irreversible evil will be avoided by average people sharing ideas and information, each making the countless tiny decisions that together drive a world. And this crazy internet thingy facilitates that as never before.

What if the nations of Ye Olde Europe had said: "Hey, we have problems here." (And there were problems--some very, very big problems.) "We should solve them first before spending all this money just to find out what's across the sea."
What if ancient tribes had said: "Shit, it looks awful chilly on that Bering Strait, and you know what else, I bet there's bears out there too."

Bollocks to that, right? It's a good thing cowards don't prevail.

Exploration, in its many forms, is a pure joy. Making a buck is a personal and familial necessity. Throughout history the two have combined to produce some magnificent results. I see no reason this won't continue.


Which brings us back to the matter of the first child to be conceived in outer space. I don't know to which girl and boy I should be speaking, but whoever you are, you better not name your child something silly. She's gonna hate you for it if an eon's worth of history classes snicker every time they read her name.

I humbly recommend you name her after me: Latigo Flint. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Latigo Flint, Space Child.

I guess if you must, you can make 'Flint' the middle name and slap your surname on the end--unless your last name is Boyle, 'cause then the first child conceived in space would be named Latigo Flint Boyle--which would be way too close to Laura Flynn Boyle--and that would just be weird.

(From The High Frontier by Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill (1927-1992)

"We need, I believe, to lift our eyes..... to remind ourselves of the shared vision for which our work is done. Ultimately that vision will expand our physical, political and mental boundaries from the confines of a single planet to the much broader limits of a race freely expanding its habitat throughout our solar system, and from there to the stars. Even the beginning of realization of that vision will bring profound benefits to our planet and its life.")


At 4:00 AM, Blogger Francis Marion Tarwater said...

I think the first child born in space should be named after Robert E. Lee. It's only fitting, after all, since he was the first one to seriously consider exploring that last great frontier.

I think. I might have him confused with someone else.

Oh well, name it after him anyway.

At 6:11 AM, Blogger Rob said...

If the first off-planet conception takes place on board one of Branson's ships or space stations, will that make it a Virgin Birth?

As for names, if it's a girl, surely Stella? You wouldn't want the Latigo name to have its squinty-eyed gunslinger brand association to be diluted by being applied to a female.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Rasmus said...

I think you need to realize the potential market you might have here, Latigo.

Since we all know you're the greatest gunslinger to ever live and if only you had been born 150 years ago, you would've made the world a better place (quite possibly stopped the second world war from ever happening, amongst other things), how about becoming the fastest gunslinger in space?

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Berlinbound said...

You're British by God! I would never in billions and billions of years have guessed it... Now this doesn’t for one moment diminish the high opinion I have of your work - your lineage is of no great concern to me. But as with the moonchild about whom you write tonight; roots can be telling.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger ThePaula said...

The Problem

with space conception is that it cannot be in a weightless environment because the baby in its earliest stages requires the effects of gravity to develop properly. But, if a proper environment (i.e. one with a gravitational force close enough to the force experienced on the surface of Earth) can be produced for a long enough period of time for the embryo to develop, then conception in space should be something well within our abilities.

And I don't mean a general 'our' here, my darling, I am talking the specific 'our', the 'you and me' kind of 'our'. You, Latigo Flint, and me, Paula Jean. I nominate us for the job, because we won't name our offspring something dumb, and also, we would do well the two of us together in space, with me doing various things scientific and you traveling the vast expanse of the unknown which, let's face it, is the long thirst-life buried in your bones.

Also it will give me the excuse I need to jump your aforementioned bones.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

I'm pretty much all for putting the entire earth's resources and gunslingers into the space program. Also, if you and Paula have a space baby, I would bet my life that he or she would grow up to be exactly like Indiana Jones (but in space).

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Drew Habits said...

Paula, the child could be concieved in space and then grow on earth, right? I mean, let's say some astronauts or space tourists get so giddy at the sight of stars sans twinkle that they just cannot help themselves from going at it right then and there. Let's also say that they return to the crushing and oppressive embrace of gravity later that day, or even the next day. Could they not then have a baby that was concieved in space?

A baby named Flint?

At 6:06 PM, Blogger ThePaula said...

Habits we should have this conversation off Latigo's space so we don't fill up his comments page, but actually we aren't entirely sure where the gravity plays in, it has something to do with cell differentiation which starts to happen pretty early in the pregnancy, so to be safe we better count on no conceptions in weightless environments.

At 12:32 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Hello Solace Layfield. The only problem with naming her or him after Robert E. Lee is that that will preclude naming her or him after me--and that is simply unacceptable.

Oh I don't know Rob... I think Latigo would actually be a pretty hot name for a girl. I know it would turn me on in all sorts of disturbing ways.

I've thought about it Rasmus, perhaps more than any sensible man should. The wretched truth is we aren't progressing fast enough. The date of my birth shall prove perfectly cruel--almost exactly 150 years too late... and 150 too early.

It would be unwise to assume I'm British, Berlinbound, simply because I used the word "bollocks". I've said "mosey" and "ain't" and "pard'ner" many more times.

Sure Paula Jean, maybe sissy embryos need the effects of gravity to develop properly--but that's what'll make Latigo Flint II all the more special, she'll have found a way. (Or of course we'll just rotate the habitats and produce at least partial gravity. One or the other.) Get Rutan on the phone--tell him we demand a fast ship with a saddle horn on top, for when I feel like roping me some asteroids.

Oddly enough Trevor Record, Raiders of the Lost Ark was actually pitched as Han Solo looking for stuff--but on Earth, and with Nazis.

Drew, if it makes you feel any better, that was my reckoning until just recently too--rumor has it Paula is terrifyingly smart.

Being safe is for squares. And who's to say what cell differentiation is capable of when it gets mad about everyone writing it off as frail.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Berlinbound said...

Fair enough ...


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