Saturday, July 23, 2011

Out of the Womb - Endlessly Orbitting (???)

I am a true child of the space age.
I was born in 1955. That's just before the launch of Sputnik 1, the first successful human satellite launch (October 1957). I grew up watching the Mercury and Apollo programs. I wanted to be an astronaut.
If you are reading this, and are of the age, odds are almost certain you too were glued to the television on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. 'We came in peace, for all mankind' - and we believed it.

For those who were not raised on Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov , and (significantly for me) Robert H. Heinlein, perhaps the 'Space Race' is just a vague historic footnote. I was there for the very real days of fear, when young men had nervous fingers on switches and leaders postured - and several times almost started World War Three.

One solution to the oppressive threat of nuclear annihilation was to move our fragile human egg out of one single (easy to destroy) basket (read the visionaries named above).
Or preserve the race from a Dinosaur Killer asteroid. (Read Niven & Pournelle's 'Lucifer's Hammer')

Or ensure we continue past the (now certain) period of climatic upheaval - of our own making.

But I despair that humanity, having approached the edge of the rest of the universe, has wimped out. Like a 20 something who graduated college and then moved home to live with the parents, we (in the form of the American Government) have decided its just more comfortable to just stay in our bedrooms. Sure the room is small, needs painting and is crammed full of our childhood collection of junk. But its safe and comforting, and the outside world seems so cold and dangerous.

This piece was inspired by the reflections of another blog post that was pointed out to me. Itself a commentary on the current wave of internet generated rejections of the whole concept of space research. As that writer points out, the internet, computers of any kind, personal electronics, ..., ALL are spin off secondary applications from technology developed from that same 'Space Race'.

As a young man, I might have used the F-word more frequently in my depiction of this phenomenon


I'm going to leave aside the patent stupidity of NASA giving up on actually traveling to space and instead address some of the commentary I've seen on the web. Specifically, the comments to the effect that space exploration is "a waste of money and isn't worth it."


Neil said...

Two things keep me hoping - it isn't NASA that is turning away - just the people with the money.

And more importantly NASA is spending money to buy launch capabilities from a bunch of private companies. And once those companies have the ability I bet they will find/make the market to ensure we keep going

the Wareham Forge said...

"The Man Who Sold the Moon"


Neil said...

Exactly. Bigelo has some interesting plans for example.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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