Friday, June 25, 2004

A Momentous Event, But What Does It Mean?

Sitting here in my little house, writing my little stories, dreaming my little dreams (ok, maybe they aren't so little) I had no idea something spectacular happened in the world until my husband came in one day this week and told me a private citizen had flown into space.

Where was I when this happened? I mean, sure, the Internet is my friend and I am constantly surfing it, so why didn't I see anything pertinent about this event? The sad part is, when grandchildren and youngsters say, "Where were you the day SpaceShip1 took flight?" I am not going to have an answer.

Sadly, my husband found only a small blurb really in our local newspaper and nothing was on the news. The pilot and backer were going to be on Jay Leno but my dear hubby must get up at 5:30 in the morning in order to get to work, so no late-night TV for him.

Today I decided I would look and see what I could find, and found it at! We have probably stepped into a new age. Here there is an article, including a video clip of the flight, at least the burst and landing of the craft.

On June 21, 2004 ...Under the command of test pilot Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne reached a record breaking altitude of 328,491 feet (approximately 62 miles or 100 km), making Melvill the first civilian to fly a spaceship out of the atmosphere and the first private pilot to earn astronaut wings. ( press release, my italics)

This man should receive a ticker-tape parade, like the first astronauts! I'm telling you, this is simply an awesome happening!

What does this mean for NASA? Does it mean NASA is finally going to have to get off it's butt and get to doing some important again? Yes. Does it mean people are really going to have to take care of what we have so we don't destroy what else is out there in the Universe? Yes.

Let's face it, we as a race, as a species, do no have a wonderful track record. We have nearly destroyed this planet by greed and belief something will never disappear. All of those now extinct animals would argue a different point...against us. Even today there are animals on the endangered list fighting for survival before they disappear totally from our world.

Now, in essence, the private company has been unleashed on the Universe. It was, of course, inevitable. Still, part of me cringes. Have we learned anything in all these years of living on this world? Can we make it to another planet without destroying it once we get there or having to say "Oops, sorry, my bad" when an animal goes extinct. And just what if that animal is as sentient as a human being? Dolphins are supposed to be as sentient as human beings, yet look at how they are treated. Only when we see other humanoid creatures like ourselves will our prejudice for a "populated" Universe be satisfied I'm afraid.

I applaud this great and wonderful day of SpaceShip1 - and I am also frightened by it.

Here are some links for you to follow:

Scale Composites web site
SpaceShipOne's Press Release
Universe Today
You can also find video footage at MSNBC, which was too cool to watch really!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Humans generally do think of only ourselves or beings shaped like ourselves and being intelligent – that’s pretty evident from watching most science fiction. You see more “non humanoid” alien life forms in written works than in visual ones.

Can we make it to another planet without destroying it when we get there? Hard to say. Humanity’s biggest advantage over the other animals is our mind and our ability to adapt the world to us instead of making ourselves adapt to it. When humanity makes it to another planet, we will be making alterations to it – even if all we do is build a small research station. And if we find a world that would be perfect if the atmosphere was a little more breathable, or the water was a little less acidic, that’s when the terraformers will step up – and while that will make the planet inhabitable for us, it will be destroying it for any native life forms.

Arguably, these are issues we don’t have to deal with right now – we have no spacecraft capable of getting us to another planet that is even remotely habitable quickly, and likely won’t have any for a long time to come.

A couple of asides:

- My nephew saw a short blurb on The History Channel that said the next space station we build with be a combination research and military base. He’s a Robotech fan, so fleets of Zentradi ships were the first thing to come to mind for him. I’ll admit, the prospect makes me wonder if the military knows something they don’t want to tell the rest of us about just yet.

- According to an article on NewScientist.Com that I saw today, SETI thinks that recent advances in radio telescopes and computers would allow us to find extraterrestrial signals in the next 2 decades.