The greatest myth of the 20th Century was that we would soon be flying easily into space, exploring new worlds and meeting unimaginable extraterrestrial beings. It hasn’t happened.
The real news about space travel this week. Maybe people will go to Mars, someday, or maybe not. Unmanned spacecraft took fuzzy pictures of Earth from the vantage point of the Moon. An Astronaut is using Twitter as his tin-can space station goes around and around and around the Earth. Ooh, and someday, maybe, there could be real flying saucers to take you into outer space!
We don’t even have Tang for sale in grocery stores any more, though I hear that people can still buy overpriced, dehydrated ice cream from the National Air and Space Museum.
What have we got from decades of investment in space travel? Not much space travel, some extremely interesting and important science, and a whole lot of military exploitation.
Space seems to be, at least for the present, a lot more about what’s going on down here on Earth than it is about great adventures out in the void. What’s going on down here on Earth, in our government’s view, seems to be in large part a military consideration. Too many of the spaceships of today are military satellites that watch over the Earth to help to tell soldiers where to go, so that they can kill people.
It’s a view neatly summed up in Congressman Michael Simpson’s earmark requesting nearly two million dollars to develop new Air Force satellite technology:
“Spacecraft are critical for coordinating modern military operations, particularly for intelligence gathering, battle-space communications, resource deployment (e.g. Global Positioning System), and targeting.”
To not-so-boldly go where far too many men have gone before.