End of an Era

Posted: April 4, 2011 in Debate, Economics, History, Idealism, Science, Technophilia

I sent this link to an online discussion group in which I participate (never mentioned here before) along with the brief comment below.

I wrote:

It’s not quite over yet, but the brief era of manned space flight is drawing to a close. Perhaps we’re finally ready to admit that everything else out there is just too far away to be of more than theoretical interest to us and the cost of of maintaining human life in space is too great. The glory of our empire in space was the stuff of dreams for a while, before we agreed to share it. Now it’s nearly over with.

The responses were excoriating. I don’t think those folks would appreciate being quoted here, so I’ll withhold, but I was raked pretty heavily. I was called incredibly pessimistic and nihilistic and accused of dancing on the grave of something not yet dead. I was also schooled on the history and motivation behind the space program (as though I knew nothing of them) and told flatly that it’s not over, that distance and cost are just numbers. After all, we’re explorers.

Oddly enough, my initial remark was meant to be wistful, not damning. I was simply observing that the romance is over, that the frontier is finally closed. But I wasn’t interpreted that way at all. Frankly, I’m a little surprised I sparked such a uniform response. Who knew that Kennedy-era idealism about manned space flight and exploration still burns so hotly? Turns out I unwittingly gored an ox that is still to many an idol.

For a far more comprehensive description of what may happen next with the U.S. space program, see “NASA’s Course Correction” at The New Atlantis.

  1. You just ran up against the religion of progress, you should be proud to be excoriated!

    Of course the space age is over — and in the US 1st, its capability will be zero shortly if it’s not already. So you’re right.

    I find the “NASA Course Correction” thing bizarre. The US is broke. There will only ever be one fossil fuels bonanza, and it is now over…

    • Brutus says:

      I’ve argued in the past with this group that our fossil fuels bonanza is a one-way ticket down a dead-end street. By the way they responded, it’s as though I’m Ted Kaczynski huddled in my Montana hermit’s shack scribbling my manifesto and bombing them through the e-mail. They don’t wanna hear it. You and I are in agreement about the bizarreness of denial of what (to me at least) couldn’t be more obvious.

      • Lol… yes well you are up against fundamentalist believers; arguing with them is bound to try the patience. Maybe set up a Transition Town in your area or something, and find some people who might like to hear sense…? They do exist! :)

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