As I child of the ‘60s I grew up on a diet of space program firsts. After the first moon landing in 1969, like most of my generation, I was sure that we’d have a permanent base on the moon (anybody remember Space 1999?) and be reaching for Mars by the turn of the century.
Obviously, we didn’t make it. And in many ways we’re not a lot closer now than we were then, at least for the moonbase.
That fact frustrates me enormously but on the other hand, the successes of the robotic missions like Cassini and the Spirit and Opportunity pair are hugely encouraging. There we’ve achieved things far beyond what could have been reasonably expected from the state of the robotic missions of the 1960’s. But I’m impatient for humans and not just our machines to be there.
Man will not always stay on Earth; the pursuit of light and space will lead him to penetrate the bounds of the atmosphere, timidly at first, but in the end to conquer the whole of space.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky 1857-1935
I am 100% convinced that mankind’s destiny is far bigger than just Earth. Our long-term survival as a species means we must have a safety net off this single, fragile planet. I wish we were out there on the Moon and Mars but we’re not.
As much as my heart wants us to be out there NOW, my head knows this endeavor is a crucial but really hard set of challenges. It won’t come easy and it will need a concerted effort of humankind to make it happen. If we pull it off, it’s going to be a generation or several generations from now. If we fail? Sadly, that can only mean some future species will include Homo Sapiens on its list of extinct species of the planet Earth.
Me, I’m a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist. I wish I’d live long enough to see us off this planet for good but that’s not going to happen. Still, I know we’ll need to do it and I know we’re capable of it. I hear patience is a virtue–probably true but when it comes to space exploration I’m impatient.
I hope enough of us are impatient that we get there before it’s too late.