The launch of Russia’s Sputnik 1 historically marks the start of the Space Age. Helped by the Cold War tensions between the Americans and Soviets, Space becomes the new craze. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter Space and this gave the Soviets the bragging rights. But, that was only for a while before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin captured everyone’s imagination by walking on the moon. Hence the age-old capitalist mantra, ‘Competition breeds excellence’.
We congratulate ourselves for all we have achieved since Sputnik 1, but, can we really define it as Earth’s Space Age? Have we mastered enough of our Solar System, let alone the Milky Way or Universe to a larger extent, to even consider ourselves a Space-faring species?
6) It isn’t an everyday luxury for even the best of us
Decades ago, mankind sent a man into space and a couple of others to the moon. Yet, years later, space is still only accessible to trained astronauts and a few capable tourists. And even the tourists pay through their noses just to experience a limited expanse of space. Just imagine! One Virgin Galactic seat is worth a whopping $250000. With that I could be cruising down the Autobahn with my new Porsche GT2 RS!
How can we call this the Space Age when 99% of the planet doesn’t even consider space tourism a viable option? Until Earth’s middle class can experience Space without selling their kidneys, let us not kid ourselves. Regrettably, the only true Space Age we get to experience is in Hollywood sci-fi films.
5) The capitalists are yet to be charmed
In the capitalistic world we live in, any project’s viability depends on the profits projected. Space is no exception. Thus, space needs that ‘EUREKA’ moment that will attract the likes of the iconic ‘Trump’ stamp.
Asteroid mining is a concept that some are seriously exploring. At this point, however, it is still just prospective. And as long as it remains just that, cautious investors will shy away.
Space tourism is also gathering momentum with companies such as Virgin Galactic and Space X. But, until potential tourists can pay less than an arm and a leg, only the likes of Sir. Richard Branson will bother with investing in the venture.
Therefore, until space tickets can be as accessible as airline tickets, the space age will have to wait. Sadly enough, too many people around the world haven’t even yet had the ‘pleasure’ of travelling coach on a Boeing!
4) Space is still the new Wild West!
Space is probably the one place where traditional foes like the US and Russia have achieved any sort of middle ground. But, mutual concerns still come second to nationalistic interests. Everybody wants to advance their own interests.
Thus, we find ourselves in a situation where we have many space agencies littered all over the world. More than the spacecraft’s needed to service all of them. The Space race appears to have grown beyond Russia and the US.
This unilateral view of space has unnecessary hindered our progress as a potential Space-faring culture. Thankfully, there is still hope for us all with the private sector entering the fray. Virgin Galactic and Space X are the most significant private enterprises; and we know how deterred capitalists are by nationalistic squabbles! On the other hand, the day Pakistan and India overlook their mutual distrust and actually share ideas, seems so far away.
3) The reality of Space Travel
Space travel is an important aspect of what we would like to imagine as our Space Age. And let us be honest. In Interstellar terms, our human spaceflight capabilities are crude at best.
The fact is that mankind is yet to send people beyond the moon. It is just now that we are developing re-usable launch systems. Furthermore, a life support system capable of handling long journeys has yet to be developed. How do we shield ourselves from solar rays? How do we store or generate enough food and water for journeys to Mars and beyond?
The truth is that our Space Age begins when travelling in our Solar System isn’t such a hassle. Imagine a world where the Star-ship Enterprise isn’t just a prop in a J.J Abrams movie.
2) The Warp Drive dilemma
It’s easy to get caught up in the fictional world of Star Trek; where aliens exist and faster-than-light travel is possible. While alien existence is highly probable, nobody has yet to prove that an FTL drive is possible. Especially when nothing has yet to travel faster than the speed of light in our known universe. Not as long as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity still holds true. There goes our dream of establishing a federation of colony planets.
Undoubtedly, faster-than-light travel would instantly usher in the kind of Space Age inspired by sci-fi classics. But, for now, all we can hope for is a Steve Jobs of Astrophysics to provide the innovation and invention that still eludes our best scientific minds.
1) Space is still too much of a mystery
What do we really know about space? The whole notion of a Space Age should involve us mastering, at the very least, the Space in our own Solar System. But, the truth is that Space is still a scary mystery to mankind. Just watch the fantastically terrifying visuals of a stranded, helpless Sandra Bullock in Gravity.
For us to conquer Space, we have to answer key questions that keep popping up the deeper we gaze into the abyss. From the basics of oxygen provision to the highly complex dilemma of harmful solar and cosmic rays that may be harmful to future Space Travelers. Worse still, how do we handle terrifying unknowns like black holes, stray asteroids and potential alien life forms?
Maybe then we may reach a certain point where Space won’t be as scary and hostile as we see it today.
For the moment, we can stop kidding ourselves about mankind living in the Space Age.