BOSTON — For the late rocket pioneer and space prophet Kraft Ehricke, the moon symbolized what he considered the second great transition in the evolution of earthly life.
He explained that life passed its first crucial transition when primitive organisms developed photosynthesis. By tapping an extraterrestrial energy source, life overcame some of the limitations of having to make do with the resources available on Earth. That was an unconscious achievement. Now, thanks to the intelligence expressed through humanity, life is ready to tap the resources of the entire solar system. Ehricke encapsuled this vision in a sentence: "If God had wanted a species, such as this, to become a space-faring species, he would have given them a moon." He added: "This is where we can cut our teeth.... It will make us fit to go further out into the solar system."
A member of the original von Braun rocket team, Ehricke was the expert to whom other Western experts most often turned for how manned space flight might develop. He presented his vision of the moon as a space colonization "proving ground" at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington in October 1984. It turned out to be his final statement.
Ehricke viewed life's evolution from the perspective of what he called "the extraterrestrial imperative." Over several billion years, Earth's interlinked species have evolved what he called "the biospheric technology." This technology, he said, "uses some 20 to 25 of the natural elements and recirculates them ... because they cannot go elsewhere and get resources." He added that humans are evolving a knowledge-based technology that transcends what evolution has accomplished. It enables them to use "the entire periodic system of elements." "That," he said, "you cannot recycle on one planet. You have to go out."
Ehricke believed that, to make this transition, humanity must grow culturally and spiritually. He expected space colonization to spur that growth. "Civilization is the ascent beyond brutality ... the recognition that there are various ways in which to live and in which to explore nature...."
He added: "If we are aware that, with our ability to get beyond this moon, we are facing a new trait - the world builders, the builders of new worlds - I am positive ... that may be ... the technology that helps us grow and mature.... It is not in vain that all our nightmares are in the caves from whence we came and all our hopes ... are lying up there. It would be wonderful if we, ultimately, can make the transition."