Project Solar Sail and stem-cell research


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - At first glance, there seems to be no reason to compare the Solar Sail space program, which will be resumed this June, and increased stem-cell research.

However, these programs have one similar feature: both are the result of fundamental research.

Laymen have an apparently "pragmatic" opinion of all events and phenomena, but both Solar Sail and stem-cell research revolutionize accepted thinking. The former is one of the first attempts to develop an entirely new propulsion system, and the latter takes an entirely different approach to reproduction and aims to regenerate the human body's organs.

So what is the problem? What is so bad about the current rocket-engine production system that provides billions of dollars on the global space-launch market? And what about our allopathic medicine that treats health disorders time and again? Unfortunately, such treatment is short-lived. However, the entire pharmaceutical industry makes just as much money as all space launches taken together.

Both sectors have numerous drawbacks.

The global space-rocket industry has developed at a breath-taking pace in the last 50 years. Satellites have been launched, and cosmonauts and astronauts performed all kinds of heroic feats, including the amazing missions to the Moon. But what next?

There is the impression that the global space program has now reached the end of the road. Profitable space launches seem to be the most important thing, as commercialization has set in and the space-launch market dictates its rules. Obviously, the world cannot do without commercial communications satellites and so it needs more dependable launch vehicles to orbit these spacecraft. And all this costs a great deal of money.

But that will mean there is no money left to develop entirely new propulsion systems for long-range space flights.

Chemical rocket propellants have depleted their potential. In other words, chemical-propellant rockets have a limited range. All these asymmetrical dimethyl-hydrazine and polybutadiene substances are relics of a bygone era that was dominated by hydrocarbon fuel and chemical compounds. Numerous advanced rocket-engine concepts never made it past the R&D stage.

Oil tycoons have succeeded in thwarting the unique ITER program that aims to build the international experimental thermonuclear reactor. This power unit would utilize the controlled thermonuclear synthesis for the first time ever.

The European Union, the United States and Japan are now wrangling over reactor-construction sites, which means practical work has given way to politics.

On June 21, a converted Russian missile-carrier will launch a Russian-U.S. satellite. Its solar sail will unfurl in space, reacting to solar-ray pressure and ensuring perpetual movement. Retrogrades will therefore suffer a minor defeat.

In fact, painstaking effort is the key to success. The Russia-EU Foton automatic laboratory lifted off from the Baikonur space center on May 31. It will spend 16 days in orbit, conducting unique experiments with biological materials that will study tissue regeneration.

In terms of medicine, stem-cell research is picking up momentum despite ferocious resistance from pharmacology experts and other specialists. Stem cells could revolutionize medical treatment and tissue reproduction. Although a House of Representatives' bill on stem-cell research was supported recently, President Bush promised to veto it because, in his opinion, the removal of stem cells from human embryos is comparable to murder.

The human embryo has never been viewed as a full-fledged Homo Sapiens. But a convict being put to death in the electric chair has precisely this status.

It is always easier to fight "heresy" and to blame those poor monkeys for the AIDS epidemic. Any bold attempts to unlock the mysteries of the universe can be branded as recklessness. However, backward movement is impossible.

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