While I'm not much of a television buff, I've been taken by CNN's 'The Sixties', particularly the recent release of Episode 7: the Space Race.
Two elements were particularly captivating:
1. The real 'race' in the effort with Russia, and the sense of American pride that was attached to various space program propaganda to drive public interest, and hence continued federal monies for support - naturally this was a huge investment.
2. The initial images of our first baby steps in space remain deeply impactful, and are branded as iconic moments in US history.
To consider that these small steps and giant leaps were taken fifty years ago is truly amazing. This is before cell phones, networked cable television, and even before microwaves. The fact that this group of early astronauts were willing to walk the walk and be very forward about accepting risk speaks to a very different time. Today, for some reason, people are afraid of everything. Generally, we have a defensive posture on even day to day life.
I certainly don't believe in risk taking for the purpose of seeking cheap thrills or breaking records, but I do believe that degrees of risk are warranted when taking steps towards progress in any given field. The good engineer or architect of the talk to be walked understands this, and does everything necessary to engineer the risk out of the equation. Certainly, there remain unknowns, and that is the realm of true exploration, and is also the place we need to be - personally - to identify human boundaries and contemplate pressing forward yet again. This is embedded within in our genetic code, as evidenced by the progression of our species over the last 200,000 years of evolution. We have changed as a species because we constantly ask questions, and take real steps to look for answers. The suppression in recent times is a function of our just fueling a big engine. That engine needs to be more efficient...time for change in a big way.
In just fifty years, while we've accomplished much in bringing space age technology to the masses to make our day to day lives that much more efficient, where we've failed is a balanced effort in continuing to boldly look forward.
As I watched 'the Space Race', it also dawned on me that we haven't been back to the moon since, and at this point, our ambitions to put humans in space for real practical purposes has mostly dried up. There's plenty of talk, but talk is real cheap.
To make the next 50 years of commoditized innovations as beneficial to us as these past 50 years, we need to make another major step to realize our frontier limits yet again. Given the monstrous issues facing our own species' sustainability right here on our Blue Planet, it makes perfect sense to me to start pushing limits right here. It's more cost effective, will provide insight into our own planet and species' survivability and sustainability, and if driven correctly, will again command a sense of communal pride that we so desperately need. If we all hold hands, it's easier to stop being afraid of crossing the street, and start considering small steps off the sidewalk, and ideally giant leaps across that busy highway.
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