|From||"G B Leatherwood" <gblrel@xxxxxxxxxxx>|
|Date||Tue, 9 Sep 2003 14:23:38 -0700|
This is the most lively and revealing discussion we've had in some time--thanks, Mark!
I think the reason for the decline in interest is largely due to reality having caught up in large part with the sci-fi of the 50s and 60s. The fact that we're having this discussion sitting at our computers all over the world is one example. No, many of the things predicted by the futurists of my childhood have not come to pass, but many that were not envisioned have. (BTW, I used to ride my bicycle past Robert Heinlein's house, and I even had a letter signed by Asimov, so that tells you a little about where I started.)
Right now, and I'm going to get in trouble here, there is no compelling demand for the human presence in space.
There are enormous possibilities--tourist travel and solar power being two, but the costs and time to make them profitable are still too far away for most to accept.
We live in a world driven by instant gratification. Someone said "The definition of a statesman is one who is concerned with the next generation, a politician is concerned with the next election." Investors do not want to wait years for a profit--quarterly is acceptable, daily or hourly is better.
"The people," however defined, could care less about the exploration of space, so there's little point in trying to create the kind of general interest that took us to the moon. We had a charismatic and dynamic leader, we were still basking in the glory of winning WW II, the economy was great, and we had an enemy that was ahead of us--none of which we have today. We've been to the moon (Funny sign advertising the cheese industry: "We went to the moon and found it wasn't made of green cheese, so we haven't been back!"), and all the latest research seems to be saying that we are the only life forms of any kind between the sun and Pluto. So are the kids going to be energized by dreams of going to a bunch of lifeless rocks?
It will take a small bunch of dedicated visionaries, some of whom actually do something besides talk, to get us off our own rock. Governments will not do it. It seems unlikely that the people of the world in the times of Marco Polo, Columbus, even Lewis and Clark even knew they were going, much less approved of their adventures and were willing to help pay for them. We cannot expect "the public" to support the exploration of space, we must do it ourselves in small groups or individuals, and that will take a great deal of courage.
Where does sci-fi fit into this? Well, the future is still out there, and we can still put our dreams on paper--or on the Internet. Let's keep our eyes on the stars and not worry about whether anyone else is keeping us company.
G B Leatherwood