Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Space Program: In Memoriam

When I was a kid I was totally obsessed with space.  I knew all the planets, all the moons, I knew the order of space launches and how many people had died and all that sort of thing.  I read a lot of science fiction.  Sometime around when I was 13 or 14, that started to change, and I didn't care as much; I don't remember a lot of what I once knew.  I can't tell you if the Mercury program came before Gemini (that's a lie; I totally can still, but I'm going to pretend I can't) and I don't know which Apollo launches went badly (that's the truth, I can't remember those numbers anymore.)  I think it probably had to do with the Challenger disaster really, which would mean that I was 14 for sure.  Space just closed up then; we humans came back to Earth and huddled away from the cruel stars for a year and more, and I think I lost a lot of my love for space then.  Not because people died, but because we gave up for a while because of those deaths.  I get the motivation, but giving up makes people lose interest.  It did for me, at least.

Now we're all done.  We say we're going forward, and certainly other countries are.  But I don't know.  I think maybe space is over.  We didn't find what we wanted there. We didn't find anything useful or familiar.  We found cold and death and fear and expense, and ignored the fact that there was also knowledge and wonder and possibility.  I may be wrong; maybe it'll still happen, and we'll get to the stars.  But I think we're kind of done, really.

I see a nice article about space books to give a look at in the Washington Post.  I would recommend also Mary Roach's delightful Packing for Mars, which I've read only bits of, but all of her books are terribly fun.  And any of the great sci-fi epics of ages past, Dune or Ringworld or Consider Phlebas, books that suggest the commonplace wonders of a destiny we may never achieve.

Ad Astra.  Hopefully.

No comments:

Post a Comment