Monday, October 15, 2012

Fly Me To The Moon

Res Publica
Fly Me To The Moon
by David Trumbull -- October 12, 2012

Fifteen years ago, on October 16, 1997, the Jupiter 2 spacecraft left earth carrying the Robison family and two other men (one of whom was an unintended traveler) to colonize a planet of the nearby star Alpha Centauri. Well, at least in the Columbia Broadcasting System's television series, Lost in Space, that is what happened! In September of 2015, just three years from now, Lost in Space itself will be 50 years old! Wow, was my childhood that long ago?

As a boy, I watched every space travel television show and movie I could find. We lived, for several months, in Coco, Florida (near Coco Beach where another space-age TV show, I Dream of Jeannie, was set) and watched the rocket launches from our backyard. In my lifetime I saw America put a man on the moon, just as President Kennedy had committed us to do. In fact, we put a total of twelve men on the moon and got each one safely back. As a boy, in the late 1960s, I would have been dismayed to learn that as a man, in my 50s, I should live on in an America that has not put a man on the moon since Apollo 17, forty years ago this December -- we don't even try anymore.

Over 500 years later, Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage of discovery still stands as the beginning of mankind's last colonization of a new world. What of my boyhood expectations of routine space travel and folks living on other worlds? Over luncheon this week with some pretty bright people, including the son of a mechanical engineer who built equipment for National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA") missions of the 1960s, I asked, Did we simply lose the resolve to colonized space? Or was the science fiction of the 1960s unrealistic as to the prospects for colonization? The opinion, at the table, was that space colonization will be much, much harder than popularly imagined in my youth. In other words, Columbus' feat of opening of a new world for colonization will not be matched any time soon.

Today, if Americans fly to the moon and learn what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars, it will be merely in flights of fancy, inspired by Bart Howard's 1954 song -- probably as sung and swung by Italian-American crooner, Frank Sinatra.