I’m old enough to have very faint memories of the very first shuttle missions, though I do not recall the last moon landings. I recently heard a science fiction writer observe that when he was a child the idea of a moon landing was so futuristic. Then it happened…and we stopped going. It’s been over 30 years since humans set foot on the moon.
Granted, there’s been a lot that’s happened since then. Your rescale your awe meter, so the plethora of Mars landings and detailed exploration of the outer planets via the Galileo and Cassini missions don’t register in the same way. Various technologies mean that the increase in knowledge is accelerating, but, the rate of acceleration itself is perhaps not increasing. With the completion of the Human Genome, and the beckoning age of applied genomics, the perpetual promise of a manned Mars mission seems to pale in comparison. Perhaps there are simply constraints of human engineering when it comes to our exploration of space, in particular manned space flight. We are biological creatures, evolved for this earth.
In any case, The New York Times has an interesting piece up, The Fight Over NASA’s Future. It is mostly about the next generation of vehicles which presumably will take us back to the moon. Color me disappointed that the goal is to do what we’ve done before, just better.