In the movie 2001 A Space Odyessy, which came out a little over 15 months before Apollo 11 landed on the Moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, several assumptions were made about a space-age Earth society that would exist in 2001.
Among those assumptions were:
- Space Planes would take passengers to an International Space Station and the Moon.
- There would be multiple Moonbases administered by multiple nations on the lunar surface.
- Human populated probes would be exploring the outer planets like Jupiter.
Now, despite not having sent humans back to the Moon since 1972, there have been advances in Space Exploration which include:
- The Shuttle Program.
- The construction of Skylab and later the International Space Station.
- The launching of unmanned probes (from the 1970s to now) to study the other planets in the Solar System and beyond.
These advances in Space Exploration over the last 60 years from the launching of Sputnik in 1957 until now, along with enthusiasm for futuristic television shows like Star Trek, have inspired the creation of technologies that most take for granted today. These advances are shown in the Nasa Spinoff Chart below.
Clearly, humanity, thanks to space exploration and dreams about what the future would look like, have made a better and more comfortable society for most of the global population.
Unfortunately, our society, despite these marvelous advances, does not look like what Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, and others envisioned in the 1950s.
There are no round trip space flights to the International Space Station (or Moon) for that matter for ordinary tourists although individuals like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are progressing on their private ventures.
The Space Shuttle Fleet has been decommissioned and no replacement service is anywhere to be found. The Russian Space Shuttle Program lasted exactly one flight. American and International Astronauts have to hitchhike with Russian Cosmonauts on their Soyuz rockets to get to the space station.
Humanity has not been back to the Moon since 1972 although nations like China and India are designing plans to send their astronauts there. The United States has been on-again, off-again, and on again, thanks in part to what the Chinese are doing, on whether to go back.
Human populated probes have not been anywhere near Mars, Jupiter, or the outer planets although unmanned probes like Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, and the Mars Rover have yielded much in vital information from their surveys of these worlds. The Hubble Telescope has allowed scientists at space agencies around the world to peek at other solar systems, discovering some that could possibly sustain life.
Expanding Space Exploration has many benefits. It could:
- Create more high paying skilled jobs in the sciences and other fields.
- Further, expand our knowledge of the solar system and universe.
- Result in the creation of more technologies that will help society on Earth and elsewhere.
- Provide a unifying spirit and sense of achievement for the people.
- Improve the human condition.
The decision by shortsighted leaders in both political parties in this country (in Congress and White House,) after the conclusion of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970s, to cut investments in exploring the solar system and stars was wrong.
Society does not need a Space Race to fuel the Individual Human Spirit to send humanity back to the Moon and the other parts of space.
The Individual Spirit possesses the goal to move forward, explore, gain knowledge, and improve the Human Condition. That spirit is the reason the human race no longer lives in primitive squalor with a life expectancy not much older than 30.
It is that human spirit, propelled by literary and cinematic science fiction artists like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, George Melies, and Fritz Lang, that inspired early rocket scientists like Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, German Hermann Oberth, and American Robert Goddard to provide the scientific foundations for space travel.
It is that human spirit that needs to be stoked and encouraged again, as fellow Blog Writer Az Blue Meanie noted in his piece commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing in devising a “Marshall Plan” to combat climate change.
Giving more priority to the space program, as the cited 2013 report from N.A.S.A. indicated, will help combat climate change as well as other issues facing humanity.
Global leaders need to start thinking long term again and maybe our society will actually start to look like 2001 sooner than expected.
Featured Image from Lisa Benson