Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Back to the Future

When I was 12, I was absolutely convinced I'd be walking on the Moon and Mars by now. Not hoping, not wishing. Convinced.

Heinlein, Walt Disney. Boys' Life. Even the Saturday Event Post, for crissakes, all took it as a given that we were going into space... and would stay out there once we got there. It wasn't just 12-year-olds, either, Scientists like Freeman Dyson were confident that they'd be taking a grand tour of the solar system in an atomic spaceship by 1970. If you haven't read Project Orion, btw, and like either science or science, find the book.

Sometime during the intervening 42 years, we lost our way to the future. Without the impetus of those crazy Reds painting a hammer and sickle on the moonscape and maybe lobbing nukes down on us, we left some dusty tracks, flags, and a few tons of equipment and junk on the Moon after a few trips.

And flew away.

And, as much as I like the shuttle from a pure balls-out piece of cool machinery, it doesn't really do much from a perspective of getting us to other planets or even into space permanently. Do we have a permanent space station? No, unless you're super-loose with how you describe "permanent" or even "space station," for that matter. Can we get to the Moon or Mars any easier than we could 37-odd years ago? No.

NASA says we're going back. And I say it's about time 'cause this aging 12-year-old ain't get any younger.

The estimated time frame for NASA's lunar plans are:

2009 -- a first test of one of the lunar spaceships.

2014 -- the first manned test flight of the Orion exploration vehicle but no moon landing.

2020 -- the first flight of the four-astronaut crew to the moon.

2024 - Permanent base.

I'll be 72 in 2024. 72 is young. Hell, Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis was over 100 when he decided to go look at the Asteroid Belt. I can make it.

Ja! Da! It's time to take back the future.

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