Last night I had the strangest dream, that I went for a nice little jog with the bad Quaker and a fighter ace from the Korean War era. This dream was odd for several reasons, the biggest being that I have been told that mr Stone has bad knees and it struck me as odd that he was not only able to keep up but regularly outrun me. I am not in peak physical condition, but it was quite odd to be constantly outrun by a man much older than me.
The other odd thing was the fighter ace, whose name I no longer recall unfortunately, he did not look old enough to be a Korean War vet. He barely looked old enough to be a Vietnam war veteran, perhaps this was my mind selecting some other time in history when both of these men were in better shape.
In any case the dream was very strange because I and the fighter pilot spent most of this time jogging leisurely and talking about various things relating to aviation. While mr Stone got more and more aggravated that we were more interested in talking than actually running. “Come on, we can talk any other time, we are here to run remember?” I believe that I would have been able to keep up with him easily if I hadn’t been constantly talking to the fighter pilot.
In any case I think this dream was a metaphor, lately I have been doing a bit of research for my first bit of feen fiction. I will be releasing it later this week, all you need to know right now is that it’s going to be very techno centric, slightly steampunkish and a message not to put ones faith in aliens to rescue us from the ravages of government.
The research I have been doing has been mainly on the subject of spaceplanes, real and rumored. The photo you see above is of a rumored spaceplane and carrier aircraft believed by some to have been canceled sometime around the start of the Iraq war, possibly due to budget shortfalls and a reorganization of priorities. “Who cares about space anymore, we gotta kill more brown people and we don’t need a space shuttle with a door gun to do that!”
Back to the dream, during the 1950s and 1960s several remarkable programs came into existence that attempted to provide a reusable, relatively cheap spacecraft. Most famous was the X-15 but there were others, like the X-20 Dynasoar, or this rocket equipped F-104. Even during the 1980s there was some interesting work done like the shoot down of a satellite by an F-15. But now this country no longer has a space shuttle, the silly little program to replace it was shit canned and many people across this country feel a collective sense of embarrassment and shame about this latest example of America going backwards.
I think this dream was a metaphor for the failure of the military industrial complex, at least in space travel. The fighter ace was a symbol of the old space travelers, a man with some truly incredible stories, but who probably isn’t going to be contributing much in the future. While mr Stone is symbolic of the various private ventures who intend to continue manned missions in outer space. Running ahead without paying too much heed to dawdlers who can do little more than rest on laurels of past achievements.
The ultimate irony of all this is that I think the only thing stopping the further flourishing of private space travel is regulation in that field. I saw no better example of this than the triumphant flight of space ship one and (hopefully) space ship two. Space ship one was a rickety contraption, it only flew three times, and it was a heart stopping thing to watch. But it was built for less than $30 million, a fraction of the cost of any government space program. And offered capabilities not seen in this country since the X-15 was decommissioned decades ago. Hopefully the follow up space ship two wont be quite as terrifying. There are other, bigger programs at work of course like Elon Musk’s successful Space X and a wide variety of other space planes in development. But I think the proof is not yet in the pudding of the various other space plane projects.
I think Space X is an excellent example of our governments crab mentality with so many things. That company is going to have to move heaven and earth to get it’s craft certified to carry human passengers. If they ever succeed it will probably only be because NASA grants them a special waiver because our government needs a native capability to put astronauts on the international space station. Personally I think they should be allowed to go ahead for three simple reasons. Any risk will be the astronauts, if they want to run the risk of dying, fine. Secondly, it would probably be a death blow to any company to have an astronaut die on them. Third, and perhaps most importantly, space travel is not safe! We have already had numerous Russian, American and at least one Israeli astronaut die. You can never eliminate all risk, not in life, certainly not in space travel.
In conclusion we won’t be getting back to the moon, or out into the wider universe until we solve the problem of getting out of earths atmosphere for less than $10,000 a pound. We have the technology, we have had the technology for decades, all one needs is the permission and resources to go ahead. But we will never make any progress as long as our space programs are done by the military because we are not currently at risk of an alien invasion and no one needs a space shuttle with a door gun to kill brown people.