Posts Tagged mission to mars

Space, the final frontier

Boldly going

I’m a huge Star Trek nerd, as you may have noticed, and by extension I’ve always had a special place in my heart for NASA. I love the idea of the space program and manned missions into space, even though for the last 30 or so years it’s only been to low orbit. So I had mixed feelings this last week as Atlantis hurtled into the sky for the last time. On the one hand, I fear that it’s the death knell of the American space program and the lofty ambitions envisioned for us by great Sci-Fi authors like Arthur C Clarke and Gene Roddenberry, and our own previous generations that had the commitment and vision to take us to the moon once upon a time. On the other hand, I recognize that the shuttles were a dead-end at this stage, sure there are countless more experiments to be conducted from low orbit, but the real adventure and I truly believe, mankind’s true destiny is much further out than that. The shuttles will never take us to Mars after all and that should be our next lofty ambition in space exploration. And trying to keep the shuttles running while trying to launch other major missions would be cost and resource prohibitive. Sometimes we have to say goodbye to something we love, in order to embrace the great opportunities out there. I truly believe, that if mankind is going to survive (in one form or another) for essentially eternity, than we will have to get off Earth. We’ll need to spread ourselves out across the stars, whether faster than light travel can ever be attained or not. We know that there have been extinction level events on this planet in the past, and we might be prolific enough to survive one or maybe even two of them, but there’s more to worry about then that. We’ll bleed Earth dry of resources eventually. We’ll pollute our world into a waste land, nuke ourselves away with war, a planet killing asteroid will collide with us, or someday our Sun will even die. Statistically speaking most of those things are likely to happen, and our Sun dying is inevitable really. It won’t happen in our lifetimes sure, but shouldn’t we strive now to protect our entire species? And yes, I also hope that there’s far more out there for us to discover. I hope that there’s intelligent life out there, hopefully alien life we can even exist with peacefully to our mutual growth and benefit. That’s a lofty dream to say the least considering humanities history amongst our own species of the result when one species, especially with wildly different levels of technology encounter one another. I still dare to dream though.

In the end, when we have such amazing goals out there for us, I don’t think anyone can really justify keeping the shuttles functioning. All of that money that has been going into maintaining the aging shuttles and launching missions can now go into research and development for our next launch generation of launch vehicles and for other major missions and ground breaking research. And when you consider the longevity of the shuttles themselves and the Mars rovers, you can certainly say this for NASA, we damn well know how to build this shit to last. So while I’m sad that I never got to see a shuttle actually launch in person, I would have loved that, I’m hopeful that this won’t be the lasting end to our own launches. I’m even hopeful that within my lifetime commercial manned space flight might some day be possible and that Space Tourism might some day become an industry and not just some weird fantasy of mine.

And yes, maybe if we’re lucky, someday Holodecks. Wistful Sigh…

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