The Future Did Not Arrive

The future did not arrive….

I was thinking of the opening line to COUNT TO A TRILLION yesterday when they flew the last Space Shuttle flight, piggyback on a 747, into Dulles airport, which is only ten minutes from my house. I did not get a chance to see it and say farewell. It is the end of an era. Last I heard, the administration ordered NASA to make the Arabs feel good about themselves by pretending they had made some sort of contribution to aerospace technology. As a science fiction fan, I give them credit for naming the star Arrakis, Mu Draconis, the tip of the tongue of the dragon.

Last Flight of the Shuttle

When I was a kid, superhero cartoons went through a period of being nonviolent hence boring. One cartoon that stuck in my mind was an episode of SUPERFRIENDS where the Justice League was called out to fight a saboteur wrecking the space program. His motive for his dasterdly crimes was that he thought the money spent on the space program should be spent here on earth on social programs. His name was Plastic King.

Shuttle Flies past the Washington Monument

Say Farewell, sci fi fans. Plastic King got his wish. Trillions of dollars and tens of trillions will now be spent on social programs, including socialized medicine, and less and less on the space program.

Adieu!

Despite the melancholy of the moment, do I think the Space Shuttle program was a pork-barrel boondoggle? I do. We wanted renewable heavy lift capacity, but then when we had it, with had nothing much to lift and no place to lift it too. Had we built that moonbase, or a real space station, by which I mean a space station serving as a shipyard for interplanetary vehicles, then that shuttle would have had some place to go. Maybe we can rent heavy lifting capacity from socialist Europe or communist China.

Maybe NASA will bestir themselves to put up a moonbase we’ve had the technology to do for 50 years, but haven’t done, or fly manned expeditions to near Earth asteroids, or Mars. Maybe private industry will step in and step up. So this could be a blessing in disguise. But, if so, the disguise still holds a melancholy echo.

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