I happened today on the thread about the new discovery channel series "When we left Earth" and re-watching the commercials and reading some of the comments got me thinking.
I'll often wonder to myself what series of world events have defined my youth and which ones might yet influence it in the future. I was a kid who like most of you grew up in the relative innocence of the 90's. By the time I began to really grow up and concieve abstract thought we were already in the post 9/11 terror-abound world. The flavour of the 2000's decade has without a doubt been conservatism and greater emphasis on national security but what do the next few decades hold in store?
My dad is 56. I asked him recently to think of one thing he experienced in his youth which really captured his thought and imagination, something that defined his childhood. After some thought he told me it had to be the space race. He went on to explain in some detail and what he said also really got me thinking.
Imagine being a kid growing up under the shadow of the cold war. In those days the paranoia was real, the threat of war not simply imagined but very real, and the world was divided into a mindset of us or them. Like today, people lived with some element of fear in the back of their minds, it was simply life as usual, anything could happen.
When Sputnik first circled the earth, many people first thought- Shit, they beat us to it. Could that thing carry missles? Why the Soviets and not us?. However more people still were simply astounded by the sheer thought of something man made orbiting our planet. Nowadays our piece of space is littered with every kind of junk possible, but back then, it was nearly inconcievable. From that event alone, imaginations ran wild, enthusiasm grew, and the pressure was on to advance every aspect of space exploration possible. The world was watching.
My dad recalls fondly listening to Kennedy's speech promising to put a man on the moon by the end of the 60's, Watching videos of the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo missions. For the first time ever science fiction was becoming science fact, the adventure was real, and the whole world was a cult follower paying rapt attention to see what would happen next.
The space race was a mass embodiment of non-military competetive spirit which captured a world's attention and advanced the cause of science. Then it stopped.
So what now? in today's world of paranoia, national budget defecit and global conflict do people care enough about another leap forward in space exploration? Sure we advance- New satellite technology here, a Mars rover there, yet nothing comes close to even remotely paralleling the stream of marvels which resulted from 15 years of intense scientific and cultural progress.
I know it will be expensive, I know it may cost lives and I know there will be the doubters and skeptics asking why bother? But as a dreamer among dreamers I often think to myself- How fucking cool would it be to see the next step beyond the shuttle? A completed space station? A base on the moon or even a mission to Mars in my lifetime? My personal opinion is that it will be worth it. The world needs a little imagination and I want the chance to feel a little like a kid again the chance to be a part of it all, and the chance to tell my kids how the development of space marvels that come standard in their lives were once the pinnacle of my youthful imagination.