I hope that people all over the world will stop and reflect – for at least for a moment – on the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing.Â It was history.Â For context, I’m forty-eight this year.Â I was an eight-year-old girl whose dad worked in aerospace in 1969 (for McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Corporation).Â I’ll admit my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I recall watching it on a smallish black and white TV.Â I think we watched it at home, and also at school.Â It felt like a big deal to me, a feat of engineering and courage.Â A vote of confidence in the US and in mankind — the words were about a giant leap for mankind, after all.Â Good words.Â I’m glad they weren’t a giant leap for the United States.
Personally, I’ve ended up in technology, and writing science fiction.Â I have story out in the anthology “Footprints” from Hadley Rille Books that was released to coincide with this anniversary.Â Something the eight-year-old me might have only dreamed about.
The history since then is also worth thinking about, and maybe not as negatively as we have. I’ve read a lot of talk about how we should have gotten back there by now.Â We should be on Mars.Â Maybe we should even be flying generation ships out past the solar system.Â I share those sentiments — I FEEL we should have much more presence in space than we do.
But let’s stop and get some context.Â First – we learned to fly 1903.Â That’s 106 years ago.Â We’ve flown all over the globe – we in fact fly all over it all day.Â We’ve flown all over the solar system.Â Not daily, but a lot.Â We’ve explored moons.Â We found strong evidence of other planets.Â We’ve searched the sky for messages.Â We’ve sent messages (Voyager).
Humankind should not discount our progress.Â Manned spaceflight is hard – and like some of the other things we thought we’ve have in the 60’s (jet packs, flying cars, and underwater domed cities), the engineering was tougher than we though and the payoff slower.Â The ROI is just tough.Â We’re just now developing the technologies that might change that ROI.
- New materials. Nanotechnology.Â Composites like the beleaguered Dreamliner, which will almost certainly eventually fly.Â Carbon nanostructures.Â Making fuel from waste.
- New launch capabilities:Â Beanstalks.Â Launch from space.Â Lasers and nuclear propulsion options. None of this quite there, but all of it closer by far than in 1969.
- New Humans:Â Genetic modification to do better in space.Â Further away than the other two, but also closer by far than we knew in 1969.Â Sometime in the next forty years, we will be able to do this if we choose to.
So we’re getting some things to drive down the costs or increase the functionality.Â There are also some benefit pressures.Â Other countries getting into the game (at least pre-recession).Â We won’t cede our leadership in space easily.Â We may not be fighting as hard to lengthen it as I would personally like, but we haven’t yet given up much ground.Â Some.
I think it’s likely the next 40 years will see much more progress than the last 40 years.Â What do you think?