Newspaper article China Post

In Space Lies Death, Danger and the Promise of the Unkknown

Newspaper article China Post

In Space Lies Death, Danger and the Promise of the Unkknown

Article excerpt

In a recently published short story, Tom Hanks dreamed up a world where space travel has become a hobbyist pursuit. The moon-orbiting spacecraft was built by a pool supply magnate-turned space entrepreneur and retrofitted with duct tape from Home Depot. The launch date of the narrator's moon trip is scheduled around a crew member's dental appointment and a bridesmaid obligation. The amateur moon travelers have "no Mission Control to boss us around" and rely on an assortment of mobile apps such as "MoonFaze app (free)" and "Max-Q app (US$0.99)."

The "Apollo 13" actor's fictional trivialization of space travel reflects both the decline of the U.S. government's space program and the advancement of technology in the real world. Computer capability has increased exponentially in the decades since 1969. Nowadays even the cheapest smartphones are immensely more powerful than the Apollo Guidance Computer and the period-era computers at NASA Mission Control Center combined. Yet at the same time, space technology seems also to have been stalled since the U.S. moon mission.

After sending men to the moon, generations of "serious" decision makers in Washington seem to conclude that enough has been done. The Great Recession dealt another blow to the U.S. space program as budget cuts surpass universe exploration as the U.S. government's top priority. While emerging nations such a China and India are beefing up their space programs to serve a mainly nationalistic purpose, they are still far behind the U.S. in terms of technology.

As a result, the future of space travel increasingly lies in the hands of private companies, the contractors that help ferry stuff to the space station for the government, and the more adventurous entrepreneurs trying to build a space tourism industry. Space travel seems to have lost its prestige as a world-changing endeavor and become a hobby and a PR stunt for the super-rich.

The two major accidents involving private space companies in the past few days highlighted the challenge and dangers of space travel. On Oct. 28, the Orbital Sciences Corporation set the unmanned Antares rocket to self-destruct as it began to fall back to the ground 15 seconds after liftoff. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.