The Constellation Program is supposed to pick up the ball that NASA dropped in the early 1970s and send the United States triumphantly back into manned space flight. The Space Shuttle will be retired in 2010 with a mostly successful record of going into Earth orbit and returning safely. There were a couple of Space Shuttles that didn’t quite make it and that was the news that everyone got to see. The routine launches and returns were, well, a bit dull and their missions seemed pretty pointless.
We are all members of the Science Fiction Generation, we are living in a Brave New World that even the great Sci Fi writers of 1950s didn’t imagine. It’s all exciting and amazing, but somehow, we seem to have veered seriously off course somewhere. The Constellation Program is supposed to get us back on track.
So what was the right track? Going to the Moon was the first step-right, got that one. Next build a Lunar Station-no, not yet, likely not ever. Next Go to Mars and return safely-no, not yet and maybe not ever. Next build a Mars Station, build more Mars Stations, and maybe a few More Mars Stations. No, not even likely, not on anyone’s drawing board, not going to happen. Next-Manned Deep Space Exploration-this is Star Trek, Buck Rogers, and just about every other Sci Fi show worth watching. Not in our lifetimes seems the phrase most apt here. Next-Contact other Space Faring Races and Join the Galactic Community-pure drivel really.
Between 1850 and 1950 the world changed more than it had in the previous fifty thousand years or so. Technology, what a concept. The Universe was rolling over and giving up its secrets faster than we could read them. Anything was possible. This wondrous age ended with the Atomic Bomb and everything thinking, well, that was fun, wasn’t it? The ability to end all life on earth, if we wanted to, was a pretty serious bit of business. It still is, but most of us just pretend it never happened now and try to get on with our lives.
So we are all explorers now, only we spend all our time in cyberspace, not outer space. Its a lot easier to get to and it doesn’t kill us quite as fast as that whole no air and no ozone thing does. People are just not designed to live in the vacuum of space. And we don’t have all those cool gadget from Star Trek like Gravity Plates and Warp Drives and Transporters. Space is Hard.
I wanted to go to Jupiter when I was lad, that was before they told me it was nothing but a big ball of gas. I was also a big fan of the idea of Canals on Mars, proof that we are not alone in the Universe. Maybe the Constellation Program will find a few canals, that would be funny. Oh I know the odds are really good that there is other life out there somewhere, but the odds are also really good that none of us have a chance of ever meeting each other. It’s that whole deal about technological development and light years and a whole bunch of bothersome stuff.
I say forget the Constellation Program. We might as well stay home and try to sort things out here. Of course, that hasn’t worked out too well either.