The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 July 2004

Let there be leaps

Which, historically, begin with one small step for a man.

Says Rand Simberg:

Thirty-five years after Neil and Buzz walked on the moon, we have neither the NASA Mars base, or the huge spinning space colonies. But we're finally seeing new progress on a front in between those two visions. Forty years after the end of the X-15 program, we're recapitulating some of the early NASA program privately, and diversely, with the efforts of Burt Rutan and the other X-Prize contestants and suborbital ventures. They won't be diverted down a costly dead-end path of giant throwaway rockets. Instead they'll slowly and methodically evolve capabilities and markets, creating the infrastructure for low-cost access to space. Once we can afford to get, in Heinlein's immortal words, "halfway to anywhere," we'll finally be able to return to the moon, to complete the job begun by those first voyagers, and this time we'll be able to stay.

We're at our best, I think, when we're pushing the limits of what we know. On a much smaller scale, I know I'm a lot more focused during the World Tours, which so far have been through unfamiliar territory, than I am during the 49 weeks when I have to work for a living, when the only limit pushed is the threshold of exasperation. There will likely never again be the sort of excitement that John F. Kennedy managed to whip up for that first moon-landing program — for one thing, every special-interest group between here and Betelgeuse will complain that money put into space, be it private or "public," is money that won't go into its pet programs — but I persist in my belief that we were put on this earth to find out stuff.

And, yes, occasionally to fart around.

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