Sunday, September 7, 2014

Saturn By 70

In 1958, ARPA--the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the agency that would later be responsible for the development of the Internet (no, sorry, Al Gore had nothing to do with it)--created Project Orion. Their mission: build a 4,000 ton interplanetary spacecraft, powered by atomic explosions, to explore the solar system. Their motto: "Saturn by 70."

Yes, they really were aiming to reach Saturn--by 1970. Wildly optimistic, possibly even crazy? Yeah, in hindsight. But where has that optimism of the G.I. generation gone? You watch the Disney films of the 60s, and it seemed like our high speed, ultrasonic, nuclear powered future was just around the corner, and it was so bright, we were gonna have to wear shades while we flew our car to the grocery store.

We've achieved some of that future now--in some ways more so than those cheery documentarians could have ever dreamed of. But that forward thinking hope--that dreamy certainty that we could do anything we set our minds to--is long gone. Our tools have given us more potential than ever, but our will to exercise it seems to have waned. There are some sectors where that spirit is alive and well, such as Space X, but as a nation, that feeling that we could do anything has disappeared into malaise. How many children today can name a single astronaut?

We need to get it back. We need to steal it back from from the doom and gloom naysayers in our government and in our universities who insist that America's time is over. We need to pry it from the clutches of the barbarians at the gate overseas who want to take the world back to the 14th century. I'm not just talking about our interstellar wanderlust. I'm talking about our faith that science, technology, and hard work can conquer the world's problems. We need to teach the next generation that this was and is a nation of people who can do things, and when they put their minds to it and work their asses off, they can achieve greatness. When we stop looking forward, we stop moving forward.

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