Science fiction promised children growing up in the 1950s something different than what it does to our children today. The innocent expectations of tomorrow culminated in the 1964 World’s Fair which seemed all about the future and the promise of space travel? Was there ever another time in history where kids truly believed they would walk on the Moon or Mars when they grew up? Between 1961 and 1972 NASA always went further and faster with Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. For the forty years since 1972 we’ve been retracing old orbital paths below those reached in Project Gemini in 1965. Now, the U.S. can’t even launch men and women into orbit. When did the final frontier fizzle out? I’m sure the budget bean counters know.
It’s not like we don’t have the technology to travel to the planets, we just don’t have the desire, or at least the desire to spend the money.
Like religion, science fiction promised true believers life in the heavens. As long as NASA kept rocketing to new heights it was easy to believe the faith of space travel. Like religion, space travel has failed to answer the prayers of its devoted – nobody leaves Earth. Could it be that humans are meant to stay on Earth? Forever?
What if it becomes obvious we’re not going to the planets and stars, and humans must live for thousands, if not millions of year here on planet Earth? How does that change science fiction and the faith in the final frontier? What if we come to realize that travel in space isn’t practical or even desirable? What if we come to realize that alien spaceships will never visit us either? That gulf between the stars is too vast for travel by biological creatures. Robots might go, but not us. How will that change our faith in science fiction?
We won’t know our limits in space until we hit them. So far, we’ve only hit the money barrier!
I always believed science fiction was the sacred writing of the space travel faithful, but again like other belief systems, tenets of the faithful change. If humans aren’t meant to travel to the stars, what is our destiny? Science fiction, instead of selling space travel, promotes turning inward with artificial intelligence, cybernetic worlds, brain downloading, biological immortality, and other fabulous speculation about living on Earth. I can accept the confinement if there are real limitations to humans traveling in space, but I’d sure hate it if we’ve just reached the limits of our vision.
Oh sure, there are still true believers who can’t give up the idea there’s a world just 35 million miles away that’s ripe for terraforming. They keep preaching their gospel hoping to convert enough believers to make their visions come true, but their creed dwindles.
Yes, there is another time when kids grow up thinking they will walk on the Moon and Mars. It’s now, and those kids live in China. Do they dream my old 1950s dreams? Will their dreams come true this time for all us humans?
This is what we get for cutting taxes.
A small government leads to smaller dreams.
China will get bigger with bigger dreams, while we grow small, clutching our tax dollars.
Thank you, Republicans.
JWH – 4/9/12