Friday, June 25, 2004

Tomorrow's World

I briefly mentioned the SpaceShipOne the other day, but, inspired by Dan Gillmor's eJournal, I thought maybe I'd write some more.

Dig, if you will, a picture. Of a young boy in elementary school in the mid-1960's. The Space Race was in full swing. Each Gemini project and then Apollo launch was occasion to bring a TV into the classroom. The astronauts were household names. I don't know that I fully understood the tragedy of Apollo I fire, but I knew that is was something bad. At the grocery store, you could get Tang and Space Food Sticks. Mattel fueled my out-of-school imagination with Major Matt Mason. Silly TV shows had actors portraying astronauts. I know for sure that I built plastic models of the Saturn V and the LEM. Did I build a Gemini rocket too? More than likely.

Of course there was also a war going on, but it was not something I understood very well. I couldn't grasp the concept of "Gorilla Warfare," (hey, I was like, 9 years old, ok?) and I misinterpreted the bumper stickers that said "Back Our Boys in Viet Nam" as somehow meaning "bring them back home."

No, outer space was where it was at, and where I wanted to be. Things changed, of course. We got to the moon and then, what? It seems like we just stopped. The shuttle came into service, but there was less celebration of each flight. Nobody knew who the astronauts were anymore, except perhaps for Christa McAuliffe. After the Challenger explosion, the idea of a private citizen going to space was just not talked about.

This year though, has seen so many successes. The Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Still going, long after their projected life spans. The fantastic pictures and data coming in from the Cassini-Huygens project. And of course, the success of SpaceShipOne, in making a giant leap for privately funded space exploration. I don't suppose I'll get to take a ride to the moon, or even into orbit, but I once again believe in the possibilities.

Of course, there's a war going on. It's not something I understand very well. I don't quite grasp the concept of a chimp in the White House, and I would love for all our boys (and girls) to be home.

current music
Joe Jackson - Blaze Of Glory


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