Friday, June 17, 2016

#107: Space Program

If there’s one way that I feel children these days have been shortchanged, it’s that our space program hasn’t provided them with any inspiring moments. The Baby Boomers had the Space Race and Apollo moon landings, Generation X had the space shuttle program, and millennials had the International Space Station and Mars Rover. Unfortunately, ever since Pathfinder ended its transmission of the Red Planet in 1997, there haven’t been that many big moments in space.

Oh sure, we’ve had a close-up view of a planet here, the discovery of a distant planet there, and even the landing of a spacecraft on a comet, but none of them carried the same weight as watching one man make a small step and giant leap for mankind on the moon, or having a spacecraft send back rare ground-level photographs of the Martian landscape.

But all of that seems to be changing and rapidly. As mentioned before, there have been some significant (albeit minor) accomplishment and discoveries, from the close-up shots of Pluto to the historic Rosetta comet landing. There’s also been plenty of inspiring sci-fi flicks such as Gravity and The Martian showcasing the potential of space travel. But perhaps the greatest motivator of all has to be Space X.

Whereas space travel and exploration was previously restricted to NASA, which has failed to provide any real results within the past decade, be it due to lack of funding or overall incompetent bureaucracy, that monopoly has since been broken by an emerging private company led by an optimistic entrepreneur. Not only has Space X perfected a new form of space travel with its reusable rockets, but the company has grand plans to embark on the first manned Mars mission as soon as 2030.

Imagine children gluing their eyes to their flat screen televisions and watching in high definition as a human being takes the first step onto the Martian soil, the same way children before them once stared into their television sets and watched in grainy color (or black and white) as a human being took the first step onto the lunar surface. And while the first experience was brought to them by taxpayer dollars, the next one will be funded solely through the investment of shareholders.

As the government once created the backbone of the internet’s infrastructure, the market had since perfected it with the world-wide web; and now, whereas government may have allowed mankind to make a small step and giant leap, the market seems set to offer the greater opportunity to have man advance further and boldly go where no man has gone before.