The Death of Progress

A couple weeks ago we lost another Apollo astronaut, Edgar Mitchell. He was eighty-five and lived a long, good life it seems. Now about half of the people that walked on the moon are dead. The youngest of them is eighty years old.

I am forty-two now. All of the moon landings happened before I was born. The NASA space program has pretty much been a spiral of irrelevance my whole life.

We had a space station whose design was whittled down in scope to the point that most of the work taking place on it was to keep it aloft. Making it even more fun it was damaged on launch and was bandaided so that it wouldn’t become an expensive fireball immediately. However, it proved so pointless that Jimmy Carter dropped it on unsuspecting Australians.

We had a Space Shuttle that, again, was whittled down in scope that by the time it was finished was not much more than a space joy ride device. The plan was to launch every month and do… things. This never happened and in the almost 20 years the project was in service it went up about 135 times.

The less said about the International Space Station the better.

We don’t even have the rockets to launch these heavy objects into space any more. Instead we rely upon Russian left-over parts in Kazakstan.

With this technological trajectory there is a pretty good chance that no one will go back to the moon in my lifetime.

Which leads to the latest output from NASA:

Government funded retro-futurism isn’t the best future.

These posters are wonderful. But, you ever hear the phrase “all hat, no cattle”? Let me work a new one: “All space suit pictures no moon base”. Unfortunately this is typical of current society. We can make all of the pretty pictures but cannot actually do the things that should inspire them.

But you know the worst part? Look at the style. The current phrase for such things is “retro-futurism”. In the late-50s to early-60s this style was everywhere in advertising. It was a look of optimism that the future was ever-upward, conquering obstacle after obstacle.

So, you may ask yourself, why would posters showing the future made in the 21st century use the same visual language we developed fifty years ago? Quite simply it is because that future is dead. Even the folk at NASA cannot see us getting to Mars from our current technological place. In order to show that future they had to go to the past.

You can’t get there from here.

Alright, I hear you say, it isn’t that bleak. Aren’t a handful of billionaires putting together space programs? Why yes they are. They are doing things slightly more advanced than the Soviets did with Sputnik… in 1957. The backward slave state North Korea just did something similar. Hurrah.

There really is no point to my rant. Sure, I could recommend another X-prize like thing. Let’s take NASA obviously ample public relations budget and put a bounty on a manned space flight. Perhaps after that one make another for putting an object on the moon. Perhaps that is the way out.

Perhaps. My bet is we are all stuck on this planet for the foreseeable future.

This is why they call me Mr. Happy.