Sunday, January 03, 2010

Day 3, 2010

I Want to BelieveThere's something wonderful about waking up to the second decade of the 21st century. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I suppose it comes from finally realizing that yes, I am indeed living in the future. Not quite the future I was led to believe we'd all find ourselves in back in the 1960s and '70s, but it is the future, right now.

What got me thinking about the year 2010 was an old science fiction movie, "2010: The Year We Make Contact", the sequel to 2001. "2010" was released in 1984, another year laden with significant literary meaning. Of course, 1984 was the year when we discovered that "1984 won't be like 1984", but that's a different story. But what makes 1984 truly significant for me is that was the year I married Jude, a significant step on my path to the future. But once again I digress...

I remember "2010" because of its stars, Roy "We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat" Scheider, John "It's Not My Planet, Monkey Boy" Lithgow, and Helen Mirren, the future Queen of England. It was a pleasant little movie, definitely different from the original "2001", because it had a fast paced plot and a lot more dialog. Of course, back in this reality, we have yet to send any manned expeditions to Jupiter, let alone build colonies on the moon (I'll be generous and accept the IIS as a substitute for the wheel in "2001").

In spite of the fact we haven't seen Jupiter converted into a small star in the Sol neighborhood, nor communed with black monoliths, all is not entirely lost. We have, for the most part, been making contact with the rest of the universe in bits and pieces, to the point where we have a rather respectable body of knowledge. We have now discovered at least 400 exoplanets, with a handful of them labeled as "super Earths." We might not have humaniform robots spouting the Three Laws, but we've sent some fairly sophisticated and autonomous spacecraft and landers to Mars, Saturn, Titan, Jupiter, and Pluto. We've discovered water on the Moon and Mars, a critically important resource. You have to haul everything into space, including air and water, and not having to bring along such a vital resources is an important motivation for going there for extended periods (i.e. a "base").

This year (and the following decade) is going to be highly interesting, as the private companies known collectively as Space Inc begin to execute on all their research and technological investment during the aughts. Those companies include Virgin Galactic (SpaceShipTwo), SpaceX (Falcon 1 (the first private rocket to orbit) and Falcon 9, $1.6 billion Nasa contract to resupply the ISS), Orbital Sciences ($1.9 billion Nasa contract to resupply the ISS), Scale Composites (Burt Rutan's company, builder of SpaceShipOne and Two), Masten Space Systems (won the Lunar Lander Challenge), Armadillo Aerospace (John Carmack's baby, second place in the Lunar Lander Challenge), and Bigelow Aerospace (already launched two model inflatable orbiting habitats). And the list goes on.

I believe the twenty-teens are going to give us a ring-side seat to the real opening of space and human exploration, as well as irrefutable evidence of exoplanets that are supporting Earth-type life. And I can't wait.


  1. happy new year, and good luck with all of your resolutions for 2010!

    Your post makes me think of William Gibson's quip that the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.

    (And I'm really looking forward to Apple's much-anticipated update to the iPod HiFi.)

  2. Welcome back to blogging Bill,
    I used to so enjoy your articles and now hope to again.


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