With all the current hoopla over the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, I still stand by what I wrote four years ago:
I know Iâ€™ll never make it to space. I have no interest in messing up our environment here, just to get somewhere colder and less hospitable. I think Iâ€™m expected to be a space-nut, since I was born just before the moon landing, grew up with SkyLab and such, and became an engineer. But if itâ€™s that much trouble to travel so short a distance in space, what chance have we in the stars?
One of the side effects of Catherine’s Library Quest is that she digs through the sale books. She’s found a library getting rid of National Geographics for 25Â¢. September 1969’s issue, published when I was less than a season old, has a great and hilariously dated article The Coming Revolution in Transportation. It’s all hovercraft and personal transport pods (though none less than the Federal Highways Administration’s The Rambler cautions don’t blame the future when we read this article).
My favourite prognosis from the article is this one, on electric cars:
Electric cars should be common within a decade. They will be “pure” electrics, if batteries become lighter, more powerful, and longer lasting; otherwise, “dual-mode” vehiclesâ€”battery-powered in town but propelled by gasoline engines on cross-country trips.
It took just a little longer than this, and it sure wasn’t GM who brought the first ones to market, despite this picture of a hybrid Opel from 1969:
Manfred Mann and Mike Hug – The Michelin Theme
(More info at discogs. MP3 originally nicked from Steve York‘s site, and then lost on an obscure corner of my backup drive. Steve played bass on this track.)
So it was 36 years ago today that we put a couple of folks on our satellite. Big deal. People have been saying that it was the greatest achievement basically ever, and yet I remain strangely unmoved.
You have to wonder about the huge amount of energy expended in a moon launch compared to the positive benefit it brings. It might have allowed a couple of military types to prance about in low gravity, but really, what have the moon landings done for us?
Someone’s going to say computers. Well, if we’d have stopped at 1974-level electronics, maybe so. But I remember computers in 1974Â â€” and they were huge, and not very impressive.
Someone else will probably say high-tech materials. While things like aramid fibres are technically neato-mosquito, like many technologies designed around the space program, they’re basically single-use. It’s no surprise then that the Challenger enquiry folks had difficulty with Miner’s law when they’d previously only used things once.
Someone had better not say foods. Tang is not a food group, merely a useful additive for gin.
I know I’ll never make it to space. I have no interest in messing up our environment here, just to get somewhere colder and less hospitable. I think I’m expected to be a space-nut, since I was born just before the moon landing, grew up with SkyLab and such, and became an engineer. But if it’s that much trouble to travel so short a distance in space, what chance have we in the stars?