Space Shuttle Returns

So if all goes well, the Shuttle will finally launch again today. I’ve personally witnessed two Space Shuttle launches, despite never having lived in Florida. Both times, in the 80s, a launch just happened to coincide with a trip down there. I was so excited. I love space travel and I have a huge interest in both science and science fiction.
That being the case, I’m disappointed that the Shuttle is launching today. The first one launched in 1981. That’s 24 years without any real change in how we get into space. Contrast that against the 8-year time span between 1961 and 1969. In 8 years we went from having never gone into space before, to landing a man on the moon. In 24 years we have gone from a space shuttle to a space shuttle. And nothing major is in the works for manned space flight for the next several years, either.
This is 2005! Back when I was a kid in the early 80s, I would have been very surprised to learn that we wouldn’t be on Mars by now. Or, at least, back to the moon. How about a hotel in space like in the movie 2001?
Consider that in 1969 we barely had the technology to go to the moon. But we did it anyway. Today, we have everything we need to go to Mars, and have had it for years.
Well, at least there is hope in the form of private space flight. Since the last shuttle flight, the X-Prize has been won and we’ve got the first private astronauts. Some companies have real plans to build a private manned space flight industry and perhaps even space tourism. My bet is that this is the path that will lead to future space exploration, not the government/NASA route.
However, another thing that has happened since the last Shuttle flight is that China became the third nation to send a man into space. We could have seized upon this even to start a new space race. Or, we could have started talking about collaboration. Instead, it was just a few news articles and then everyone forgot about it.
I’m going to be really pissed if I die before I see a man walk on Mars. Averages say I have 35 years left. From the viewpoint of 1981, no one would have bet against having a man on Mars by 2040. But from the viewpoint on 2005, it probably isn’t even a good bet anymore. My gravestone will read: “I thought we would have been on Mars already, Dammit.”

Posted on July 13, 2005 at 10:31 am by site admin · Permalink
In: General