where has all the romance of space travel gone?

When I was a kid, I fully expected the new millenium to bring with it the next giant leap for humankind: Mars. Yet as the Powers That Be and their enablers, the voting public, have become lost in dangerous philosophical immaturity and the geopolitics of war corporatism. We know we should be up there – on a moon base, for starters – pushing science forwards and living up to the famous Star Trek mantra, yet except for the excitement of Mars landers, we are still very much Earth-bound. Have we lost our ambition? Or is just that it’s hard to get worked up about exploring space when we can’t pay the bills? It’s a fair point – but what sort of age would we live in if we had a trip to Mars to inspire us, if we fully embraced our scientific challenges? Green technology, space travel; this is the stuff international cooperation and goodwill is made of. This is stuff of human evolution.

It’s disappointing to read about the US reliance on the Soviet space program in the gap between the shuttle’s retirement (2010) and replacement (2015). Not for the political reasons involving our tense relationship with Putin, or because it would damage US pride for the Chinese to reach the moon before we do, but because the romance of space exploration seems little more than a quaint dose of nostalgia easily taken for granted.

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