Well, finally we get to the part of this series I’ve been looking forward to writing about the most: space. No longer the final frontier as we’re conquering space fast. From landing explorers on Mars to capturing amazing images of Pluto, we have begun our journey to boldly go where no one has gone before. As mentioned, science fiction often becomes science fact, and the quest to explore our universe is definitely under way led by digital entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
The whole theme is reusable space craft, which massively brings down the cost of space missions. We’ve had space shuttles to the Moon, but spacecraft that can go to Mars and back. Wow. That really does sound like science fiction.
But hold on. Reel back just a century ago to 1916. Back then, we still had horses and carriages on our streets. Most people were amazed to see an automobile – 1916 was the year that BMW was founded – and the aeroplane was used for experiments and wars, having only been proven as a viable machine thirteen years earlier. Mount Everest was unconquered; the telephone was just starting to be used; and it was the year that the light switch was invented. Meanwhile, the world was at war and the Kingdom of Poland was created as a puppet state for the Germans to carry out ethnic cleansing.
It sounds like a very different world, but it’s just 100 years ago. At that time, few people had explored the world. In fact, most people had probably never left their place of birth, as travel was for the rich. The Titanic had been launched and sunk just four years earlier, and most people would only be on a ship if they were emigrating. Leisure was at home and holidays were unheard of.
It does sound like a very different world. Now imagine this: we had still a large area of Earth to explore, especially sub-Saharan Africa and the North and South Poles. At that time, exploders visiting these lands were hailed as daredevils who might die. They returned as heroes, and brought their stories back with them.
A century later, we all bitch and moan if we don’t get our annual two weeks of sunshine somewhere exotic overseas. Most of us have a bucket list to see the things of legend first hand: Machu Picchu, the Pyramids, Kruger Park and Sydney. We hop on and off aircraft like they are buses, connecting between cities and continents without a backward glance. We can go on charity jaunts to places that were inaccessible just fifty years ago, and see Gorillas in the mist and Mount Everest from a base camp.
KLM is the world’s longest running airline, established in 1919, three years from now a century ago. Today, over 3.5 billion flights are made a year. That’s ten times the number compared to 1970.
Heathrow airport is celebrating 70 years of existence this year, and has a number of landmark photographs and stories of what has happened during those years.
The world has changed not just a bit, but a lot. Now today, when Elon Musk talks about settling on Mars, he sounds like some nutjob, but he isn’t. In fact, when he was talking about this recently, I thought the similarities of how life will be a century from now to how it was a century ago are strong. A century ago, people thought people going overseas were daring. Today, it is commonplace. Today, we think the idea of someone going into space is daring. A century from now, it will be commonplace.
Mr. Musk made this clear when outlining his latest plans for getting to Mars. A month ago at the 67th International Astronautical Congress (September 27), he outlined his vision as follows:
Nice idea and much of his idea is based upon the outline I’ve given above. Just as we think explorers a century ago were nuts, we will feel the same about space exploration until it becomes second nature and normal. And soon, it will be accessible for all too.