It’s the end of the year, and the beginning of a new one.
I used to look forward to this, thinking of the new things I hoped to see in the future.
Now-a-days, I look back, and think of all the things I thought I would get to do, and now know that I never will. Maybe my grandkids, but I doubt it. I don’t have that much confidence in the foresight of politicians.
When I was a kid in the 50’s and 60’s, I watched the entire development of our space program, from Mercury all through Apollo. I really thought that one day I would get to go to space, maybe to Mars or the asteroids, and maybe live in an O’Neal colony.
None of this requires any scientific breakthrough to achieve, it’s purely an engineering challenge; so I knew it was physically possible. Research  showed that all these things would be self-sustaining financially after an initial investment to get raw materials from asteroidal material or the moon . Continuing this development would have maintained our nation’s technological lead on the rest of the world, and given us the resources to grow economically without any near-term material limitations. It would also have given us some security (as a species) from major catastrophe such as nuclear war or asteroidal impact. I hoped to be one of those engineers. I’d have gone in a heartbeat.
Creative people can do great things, when they are not constrained to mediocrity by their managers, or finance, or politics.
Instead, our illustrious government stopped manned space exploration at the end of Apollo. The whole thing was just a PR stunt to show the world how powerful and successful our country is, so when we completed it, the short-sighted politicians stopped; and lost the momentum to go to space in a big way. Instead we built a bus to take us to a space station in earth orbit, and the furthest we go these days is around 250 miles up.
That’s one alternate reality I would have loved to live in, now denied due to the short-sightedness of politicians. And now, I’m too old. Opportunity lost, for my generation at least.
Now we have a new year, and a new decade, coming up: 2010.
On the good side, I’m looking forward to the upcoming (probable) introduction of the Apple iSlate or whatever they’re going to call it. I expect this to be shiny. Apple technology is done right (so far).
On the bad side, I’m scared to death that Obama, Reid and Pelosi are going to break my family financially with their socialist agenda being promoted through what they are calling health care reform, and through the cap and trade bill (or EPA mandated equivalent). The possibility of their agenda becoming law has made me afraid to spend money now, and if these bills pass, there is a reasonable possibility that we could go bankrupt, both personally and as a nation. So my greatest hope is that we defeat both of these measures, and retake conservative control of the House and the Senate this year.
I’m not against health care reform or environmental protection: but we have to find a way to do these things without killing the patient. The current proposals will hurt many thousands of people far more than they will help anybody.
For the long term future, that I probably won’t live to see: I still see the development of space as a critical component of long-term human development. It is not too late; but the window of opportunity is closing. As we consume the resources of the earth, we will some day come to the point where it is simply no longer possible to get into space. It is essential that we develop a permanent human presence in space before we reach that point. Economically, wealth (raw materials) are out there – the sooner we go get them, the sooner that wealth will be available to help us all.
Footnote : Read Gerard K. O’Neal’s book The High Frontier. It’s a great depiction of what could have been.
Footnote : Since we don’t have access to the asteroids or the moon, EVERYTHING has to be brought up from earth at a cost of around $10,000 per pound, so what we can do is extremely limited and is extremely expensive. This would not now be an issue if we had kept the ball rolling at the end of Apollo.