This has absolutely nothing to do with videogames, I swear.
I’ve found myself thinking a lot lately about the subject of my last post, the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery. The most obvious reason, of course, is the first successful flight of the SpaceX Dragon, which returned to earth safely after supplying the International Space Station. Sure, there was something a little odd about watching the footage of that splashdown into the ocean, especially for those of us who developed our early space imaginations during the Apollo era. It was a little like seeing a cruise ship suddenly replaced by a caravel. But it was undeniably inspiring. Even more inspiring is listening to the designers at SpaceX, and even more so the company’s founder Elon Musk (for example, check out this interview on NPR’s Science Friday). Clearly, this is a man with no shortage of vision. This isn’t just about launching satellites or supplying space stations in low earth orbit. He’s thinking about stations on the moon. About exploring Mars.
Yet, I find myself troubled by the fact that we’ve essentially turned space exploration wholesale over to private enterprise.
To understand why, think about the reasons behind the situation that I described in my last post. Why is it that we as a collective basically gave up on a commitment to space exploration, to the extent that we even begrudge NASA spending the cost of a Kardashian boob job on anything not connected with Google Maps? As I indicated, there are a lot of spurious answers –“9/11 Changed everything!” Sit the fuck down, Rudy; or the idea that we should solve earthly problems first. There are, however, two more credible answers to this.