Just saw, “Gravity,” and it’s brought a few things to mind, For the record, it’s a very good film, you just need to give the Science some Fiction room and that’s okay.
Besides, that’s not what’s on my mind.
See the real issue with space as far as this planet is concerned is that it’s always been a country and government run operation regardless of whose doing it. The reason for that is of course cost. It expensive in materials, energy and expertise to lift even the smallest payload into orbit out of our gravity well. The Space Race happened because the USA didn’t want the Russians to be the first to the moon and they were willing to bet the band on it. Of course, once they’d been there and done that, the whole thing sort of moldered because they never had the will or the backing to go the next step. There is a bitter irony every time an American astronaut steps into a Soyuz capsule atop a Proton lifting body to take them to the International Space Station.
“Gravity,” the film must take place in a parallel universe where the US Shuttle program is still operational not sitting decommissioned in a number of museums across America. That is a failure of vision, a failure of taking the long view an ultimately a failure of will. China and India see the benefits of a space program as does Russia. Russia may not be putting up the slickest, highest tech stuff into orbit but hey, their shit works. It is robust.
No, my idea is a bit Utopian but it puts the focus squarely on us as a race, the Human race that is. Rather than make the race to space a sprint of many nations, why not make it a relay where we all pull together? You put enough scientists in a big facility with enough funding to make stuff happen and happen it will. Think of it as a more beneficial Manhattan Project with a much more benign outcome that could benefit everybody. Besides, if were all pulling in the same direction, it keeps the espionage stuff to a minimum. Yes Russia had spies in the Manhattan project but they also had a very solid science community, it would only have been a matter of time before they’d have figured out the bomb for themselves. Part of the problem is scientists publish papers, other scientists from all over read those papers.
A truly international space effort would allows us to spread the risk and the rewards among the planet’s population. It would allow standardization of design and control systems. Everything being in the same place in a cockpit is not a bad things in a hostile environment like deep vacuum. We could build launch sites in better places on the planet. It’s a lot easier to punch through to orbit closer to the poles.
I know it’s never going to happen and it’s too bad. I figured space would have been a much more prevalent part of my life in 2013 than it’s turned out to be. After all, that’s what was promised me in 1969.