But in that time, access to space has been restricted by the various governments on Earth, progress has been retarded by those same governments once they had their TV moments, political sound bites and news coverage; and as a result we remain tied to this planet save for a few pitiful robots and a handful of ankle-waders in atmosphere-scraping orbit. Contrast this with air travel, which has been mostly driven by private and economic factors.
- The Wright Brothers made their first successful flight in 1903.
- The first scheduled air service was in 1914.
- In 1927 Charles Lindbergh made the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris.
- Jet engines appeared in 1942, in World War II
- The first supersonic passenger aircraft (the Russian Tupolev 144) was flown in 1968.
In 1954, this is where we thought we might be in the year 2000, and it was a reasonable expectation based on what our parents experienced in their lifetimes:
Ignore the cheesy special effects. It was the quality of their vision, not their models, that concerns us. Of course, our parents were far more daring than we have become. We're not just a nation, but a world populated by the delusional, sharing their delusions, and pretending they like it. We build cages so we can sit in them and pretend we are "free". We are superlative at faking those things that we will never attempt in real life, and patting ourselves on the back about having achieved "realism". It is in equal measure saddening and sickening.
Only within the past few years have our governments experimented... just a little... with allowing visionaries like Elon Musk and Burt Rutan do what they do; and to a huge extent this has been because our governments have proven themselves unequal to the task of sustained national interest, much less technology. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, risk absolutely nothing except that which belongs to them and their willing investors. And they do so in full knowledge of the fact that the vast bulk of monetary returns are yet to be discovered.
Without committees, the entrepreneurial mind explores boundaries outside the confines of convention and national interest. This is important, because if anything at all is true, it is this: The Universe is not owned by the United States, or by Russia, or by China, or the European Union. It is not someone's lawn that we need to be told to stay off of. It belongs to none, and should be accessible to all. It is well past time for governments to back down and quit hogging all the Space.
P.S. On the anniversary of this great achievement it's not lost on me that these thoughts seem somewhat dark and negative. My point is this: the celebration of a past event is meaningless if we cannot use it as inspiration to do so much more than we have done, and to be so much more than we have been. Every advance at every point in the human drama has come about as a result of dissatisfaction. No one has ever done anything new as a result of being "ok" with the status quo. I am not ok with the status quo. We need to step up and do better. Those who are not of that mindset should simply shut up, live their risk-free "lives" and let the pioneers be pioneers. Get out of the way.