The Discovery begins the shuttle program’s last mission today. It’s devastating failures are far outweighed by its achievements, but it is time for this antiquated technology to be retired. In this economic climate, governments should be doing as much as possible to open the final frontier to private enterprise. Clear the way for innovative technologies and brave pioneers to venture beyond the local void and out to our future homes on Luna, Mars and beyond.
As an eye witness to Apollo program, I am virtually programmed to be thrilled and enthusiastic by the possibilities the future of space exploration hold for our species. I am part of a generation inspired by the thrilling adventures of the astronauts and cosmonauts in the first decade of human exploration beyond the safety of out atmosphere. It would be hard to overstate the amount of knowledge and experience we gained in so short a time.
It has been half of a century since Yuri Gagarin crossed the threshold (April 12, 1961). Since that time, we’ve lived through an astounding technological revolution. It can be hard to see, living in the midst of it. But stop and consider what we have now that was almost beyond conception in 1961:
- We’ve heavily explored Luna, and a dozen men have walked on its surface.
- Our robotic explorers have visited and reported back from almost every major body in our solar system.
- The brilliant Hubble space telescope, along with other instruments, have opened our eyes to the vast beauty and reality of our universe.
- We’ve discovered dozens of planets orbiting other stars.
- We’ve created satellite networks that provide real-time communication, imaging and positioning data across the globe.
- The internet, combined with wireless data transfer and a cell phone, give us access to people, and more importantly, limitless information, in ways that would have seemed to be magical in 1961.
That list hardly scratches the surface of what we’ve achieved. Materials science, medicine and genetics, 3d movies and Facebook.
Take the technological revolution of the last fifty years, compare life then with life now. Then apply the same thought process to the next fifty years.
When I’m 97 years old, a century after Gagarin’s launch, I believe we should see the following:
- Thriving colonies on (or beneath) the surface of Luna and Mars.
- Commercial orbiting stations around Earth, Luna, Mars and in the asteroid belt.
- Humans exploring the outer regions of our solar system, assisted and guided by sophisticated robotic spacecraft.
- Computers vastly superior to what we have now, devices that are tiny, powerful, and everywhere, communicating with our minds, connecting us directly with ridiculously fast networks of information.
- Medical science that has achieved a deep comprehension of the genetic and chemical processes of the body, and that has mastered the ability to prevent and cure disease at a fundamental level. That includes aging, because at age 97, I want to be as healthy and fit as I am now. Or better!
- The Cubs win a world series. Okay, that may be too much to ask.
Let me know what you think! Leave a comment here and let’s talk about the future. Where am I wrong, what am I missing? How can we get from 2011 to 2061?