Space Is Still the Ultimate Destination

I know this blog has been mainly about the fantasy genre, as that is what I’m interested in writing.  However, science fiction holds a huge place in my heart and, as a result, has sparked a life-long interest in the stars and the thrill of humans exploring and living in space.  

I remember watching the original Star Trek series in syndication and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with my dad when I was a kid.  Which led me to read science fiction, with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein as my favorite authors.  Over the years, I’ve been a fan of just about every tv series or film of Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, Stargate, Dr. Who (newer incarnation), and many others.                  

When the space shuttle program started in the 80s, I was ecstatic.  I was glued to the tv when they showed the first landing and I’ve watched shuttle launches and missions on the web.  I remember poring over my grandmother’s National Geographic with the first Hubble telescope images.  I was fascinated and reluctant to give it back.  A couple years ago, I bought one of those coffeetable books at a garage sale with big, beautiful, full-color pictures of the earth, planets, sun, nebulae and galaxies.  I sat mesmerized for hours looking through it.          

Now, this may not be the most popular opinion right now, but, dammit, humans belong out in space.    

   

Since the beginning of recorded history and, before that, I’m sure, humans have looked into the night sky and wondered and dreamed.  In the 20th century we used our incredible brains and pioneering spirit to go OUT THERE.  Humans have circled the earth and landed on the moon.  Space probes bristling with cameras and scientific equipment sail through our solar system and continue out into our galaxy and even farther.  The space shuttle program allowed us to make the trip into space so easily, it wasn’t front page news anymore.  With Salyut (1-7), Mir, Skylab and the International Space Stations, people have lived and continue to live in space for months at a time.             

But we haven’t gone any farther into space, in person.  So many hurdles to jump, so many things that can go wrong.  And the cost.  Oh, yeah, the cost.  Space was once the province of governments.  But these days, governments have a lot more to worry about and it’s very far down on the “to be funded” list.            

Problems with safety, two shuttle disasters and a lack of faith and funding have left the U.S. in a bad spot.  It’ll soon lose it’s ability to send manned missions into space on its own when the old space shuttle fleet is decommissioned and there’s nothing ready to replace it with.    So, we either hitch a ride with someone else or resort to unmanned probes and robotic rovers once again.   How disappointing.   

I suppose it’s a reflection of a changing attitude toward space that I’ve noticed.  Sure, scientists have been busily trying to unlock the secrets to the universe and looking for earth-like planets – and they will continue.  But your average person no longer gets excited about space exploration.  We’ve been there, done that, and “whatever happened to those flying cars they promised us” – right?            

Lucky for us, there are some who have not lost interest.  I think it was when communications satellites began launching in the ’60s or ’70s, that private companies got their feet in the door.  Since then, international competitions with huge prizes (like the Ansari X Prize) have been an incentive to get privately funded vehicles into space and privately owned space companies have been created ( Virgin Galactic comes immediately to mind).  This is definitely the new future of space exploration.  Which makes me happy, because I would hate to think that the pioneering spirit of humanity had whithered and died.      

This morning I was checking through some science news and something caught my eye – it’s the 20th anniversary of the Hubble telescope!  So, here are some awesome images – have a look:      

                                   

This is from www.nasa.gov and it’s the only new image,  showing a small part of the Carina Nebula.  This is just the top of a pillar of gas and dust 3 light years high.  It’s getting eaten away from the outside by the light from bright stars near it and pushed apart by younger stars buried inside it.  See those streaks of light coming from the tips of the towers?  Those are the younger stars inside shooting off jets of gas.  Isn’t that incredible?                  

Here are some older, but still incredible images:     

    

  

  

The three images above are from http://hubblesite.org    

Then, I looked around and found this one:                    

NASAimages.org

From 2009.  This shows a dark gamma ray burst in the center, and apparently these suckers are the biggest explosions in the universe.  They’re so bright they can be seen here on earth using a telescope, even though they’re billions of light years away!    

I don’t think space is “the final frontier” yet (though I suppose it was for Gene Roddenberry and others, whose ashes are out there somewhere), but I think it is the ultimate destination place. 

What do you think about the future of manned space exploration and eventual colonization?  Good idea, bad idea, necessary evil?  Have you heard of anything new that’s got you interested?

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15 comments on “Space Is Still the Ultimate Destination

  1. Texanne says:

    We absolutely belong out there. I read about a former astronaut saying that there is no reason to go back to the moon—but that is like the European explorers saying, “Okay, we found that New World, let’s forget all about it and just keep hanging around the Mediterranean.” **Someone** is going to claim the moon, and soon. We better hope they’re friendly to us.

    But yes! Someone asked me recently if I wished upon stars. I said, No–but I hope to visit them someday. Yes, we are a questing species. If we don’t do that, we will wither and fall into decay.

    Great topic!

    Like

    • ekcarmel says:

      Isn’t that a shame about the former astronaut? If for no other reason, the moon can be a jumping off point to other places. It takes an awful expense to leave earth’s atmosphere and the moon is a good spot to start from. Yes, he was definitely thinking backward. Probably discouraged by the gov’t lack of interest and all the red tape involved to do anything anymore. “Private” is the way to go. Thanks for your interest!

      Like

  2. Diane says:

    It is always about resources, and profits, but…
    Then along came Virgin Galactic.
    Then along came an Australian university project and a ramjet motor.
    Then along came one man in Australia with a weather balloon and a camera.
    Now NASA and others are changing their thinking and accepting new ideas.
    Good luck to NASA (I love their web site) and everyone else who dares to dream and are prepared to work to make their dream come true. 🙂

    Like

    • ekcarmel says:

      I really like that a university on a shoestring budget did what NASA and others with multimillion dollar budgets couldn’t do. Woke a few people up, I think. That’s good. While NASA has been at this for so long, I tend to think that they are too hamstrung to develop new technologies quickly. I’m hoping they will adapt. But new blood and fresh ideas are always good.

      So sorry to hear about the recent balloon disaster. I’m glad those people didn’t get hurt. I hadn’t heard about the successful balloon launches until this crash happened. Maybe it was in the media and I missed it, but why is it the BAD news is what we usually hear about more often? Myself, I would be happy to hear more encouraging news!

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  3. Diane says:

    I heard a short news item that someone filled a balloon with gas and attached a camera and released the balloon. When it broke through the atmosphere the camera took some photos and then the balloon fell back to earth with the camera. The two photos I saw were spectacular to say the least. There was an ending comment that NASA will now rethink getting into space, because the small balloon had no trouble, whereas the rockets burn a lot of fuel to break through the atmosphere and add to cost.

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    • ekcarmel says:

      Thanks so much for the heads up on this! I found a couple different groups who did this sort of thing. Last year, two MIT students tried this and here is an article on that and the more recent one about a man from England that I assume you’re talking about can be found here. I love what smart, inexpensive experiments people are conducting these days. Bravo for ingenuity!

      Like

  4. Alanna Klapp says:

    Hi EK, I enjoyed this post and the images from the Hubble. Space fascinates me. I have a hard time believing that Earth and everything living on it can be the only life in the universe, and I also believe it’s all connected somehow.

    BTW, I linked to you in my most recent blog post, if you and your readers would like to read, it’s here: http://alannaklapp.blogspot.com/2010/05/stand-naked-on-your-front-lawn.html.

    Thanks again for a great post!!!! =) I’d love to go into space someday, if only I wasn’t so darn afraid of heights and not being tethered to Earth. That’s why I love telescope images so much. =)

    Like

    • ekcarmel says:

      Thank you so much for the spotlight, Alanna – I appreciate it!

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It makes me feel good thinking that we can’t possibly be the only sentient life in the universe.

      I always thought that by the time they allowed regular folks into space, I’d be too old or dead. Maybe not after all I’ve been reading lately. Until then, like you, we can just satisfy ourselves with the wonderful images that keep coming from space.

      Like

  5. Alanna Klapp says:

    Hi EK, thank you for the inspiration!

    It’s hard to wrap my brain around the universe, when I stop and think about it. It fascinates me.

    Yes, they’ve made leaps and bounds in a short time. I think private space travel will be more mainstream sooner than I think. And the images, yes, they are wonderful, and those too, keep getting more advanced. I think the images are like art, too.

    Thanks again!!! =)

    Like

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    Like

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    Like

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