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Requiem for the Once-Imagined Future

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the lament-for-the-dreams-of-yesteryear dept.

Space 674

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "The underwhelming Discovery mission has the Wall Street Journal Online's Real Time columnists lamenting the space program's failure to realize the sort of intergalactic exploration they once imagined as kids through the works of Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. Considering the Viking landers were digging around Martain soil back in 1976, 'we figured the place would be necklaced with orbiters and cris-crossed by rovers by now. Maybe there'd even be astronauts (or cosmonauts or taikonauts) tracing the courses of unimaginably ancient rivers.' Instead, we get a mission whose highlights were 'a) it came back; and b) an astronaut pulled bits of cloth out from between tiles.' At this rate, the columnists fear the innovations of the future won't be much more exciting: 'Maybe Real Time 2030 will fret about how our college kids do little more than steal full-res holographic porn when they're not getting their financial identities stolen by cyber-jihadists eager to build more backpack nukes.'"

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674 comments

Far greater things lie ahead (2, Interesting)

Eunuch (844280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322089)

Transhumanism goes far beyond most science-fiction (there are a few transhumanist sci-fi materials coming up now). But the key is to think beyond the human before fun space stuff. We'll be powered by lithium-ions, and thus need no oxygen. As we will be engineered machines, the whole terraforming things will be moot.

Those backpack nukes won't be much of a problem. Tanks for example are quite protected against nukes, and our vastly superior engineered bodies will not have much problems with nukes unless one goes off right by you (get better implanted radar!). Of courses finances will go quickly as we become self reliant machines travelling in space (hard to trade when the speed of light is limiting you). It seems like there is a lot of money going to space schemes. That's good--but transhumanist organizations deserve more as it is a far more pressing goal.

Not saying space science is bad or counterproductive--not at all. But the promise of transhumanism defies the english language to come up with superlatives. There really are no words for it.

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322112)

Those backpack nukes won't be much of a problem. Tanks for example are quite protected against nukes

You keep using the word "nuke." It's safe to say it doesn't mean what you probably think it means.

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322137)

Are you retarded?

Transhumanism will never happen (4, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322152)

The things that "transhumanists" describe simply will not be possible? It has nothing to do with technology: it's resources. We're seeing oil prices soar right now. With oil and other basic resources that we need for a modern society quickly dwindling: breathable air, drinkable water, etc. society as we know it will collapse long before most of these pie-in-the-sky ideals are reached.

Re:Transhumanism will never happen (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322201)

Bullshit. There are plenty of resources. There is plenty of food.

The problem is the amount of dumb fucks that keep holding it all and playing big bucks games. The dominant economy ecosystem and government is corrupted to the marrow, and eventually a change will come as it has done throughout history when a society has been in the situation we are now. Global world means a bigger society, bigger problems, and bigger turmoil...

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322158)

If you substitute "the rich" for "we", you dont sound so crazy:

The rich will be powered by lithium-ions, and thus need no oxygen. As the rich will be engineered machines, the whole terraforming things will be moot.

Those backpack nukes won't be much of a problem. Tanks for example are quite protected against nukes, and the rich's vastly superior engineered bodies will not have much problems with nukes unless one goes off right by you (get better implanted radar!). Of course finances [of the poor] will go quickly as the rich become self reliant machines travelling in space.

No, great things have, and KEEP HAPPENING (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322256)

If you substitute "the rich" for "we", you dont sound so crazy:

The rich will be powered by lithium-ions, and thus need no oxygen. As the rich will be engineered machines, the whole terraforming things will be moot.


Come, now. You wouldn't have to go too far back before you'd have said the same thing about refrigeration, anti-biotics, and tiny little devices that you could hold up to your ear and use to talk to other people, almost anywhere in the world. I'm not rich, but I've got things that my great grandparents would have considered essentially magical.

As Arthur C. Clarke Third Law Says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322314)

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (5, Insightful)

Phoenixredux (901386) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322164)

I disagree. One thing that the English language does not lack is superlatives, although sometimes individual speakers forget them and use the same ones over and over. For example, some superlatives inspired by this discussion of "transhumanism" may include: over-blown, phantasmagoric, fantasy, delusional, raving, and lunacy. Don't worry - there are many, many more. The English language holds a depth and breadth greater, in many instances, than those famed Martian canals.

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322328)

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think the word you're looking for is adjective.

MOD DOWN PARENT AND GRANDPARENT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322357)

(-1, phantasmagoric)

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322230)

I'll have what this guy is smoking!

Yes but... (4, Funny)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322283)

Tanks for example are quite protected against nukes, and our vastly superior engineered bodies will not have much problems with nukes unless one goes off right by you (get better implanted radar!).

I can think of a few downsides to having a metal, indestructable body. For example, the sex probably wouldn't be as good.

Re:Yes but... (2, Funny)

myukew (823565) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322318)

as this is slashdot i'll probably get some karma for saying

Sex is for the w34k!

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (0, Flamebait)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322301)

Please go see a psychologist. I think you need your dosage changed.

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (3, Funny)

Bun (34387) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322333)

It is hard to imagine anything more repugnant than the 'trans-human' cyborg 'life' you are describing here.

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (1)

mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322383)

It is hard to imagine anything more repugnant than the 'trans-human' cyborg 'life' you are describing here.

Imagination is futile....

Re:Far greater things lie ahead (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322390)

Well, except maybe the current state of mankind, organised savages do not a civilisation make.

The crossroads of my generation (5, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322105)

It seems to me as if the "future" is waiting for another kick, the sort of boot-in-the-pants that we saw twice in the last century. Right now, it's stuck. There are a lot of real Buck Rogers-style things that could be going on if only people seriously thought they were possible, if only there was a spark that could get us up and moving again. But that's not going to happen on its own, we need to figure out how to move again.

I dunno, maybe part of the problem is that progress just outran the global society's ability to adjust at some point -- that definately seems to be the case with a lot of the more disaffected people both in the US and overseas. IMO, the crazed religious zealot in Iran and the crazed Kansas schoolboard member have a lot of root causes in common. Those wackos are extreme examples, granted, but it seems like they're also symptomatic of larger societal problems.

I'm ready to pick up and keep moving, though, and I think a lot of people of my generation are. We never saw a moon landing; it happened before we were born and, frankly, even if we went back it would seem like old hat. "Yeah, Earthrise. Great, never seen that before". We read about this shit in the *history* books, man. But that's not a bad thing: I suspect a lot of us wouldn't find the concept of, say, mining asteroids as exotic as the Boomers would, and maybe that's all we really need. And hey, if that's possible, if that improves our lot, maybe it'll finally be that human advance where, once it starts, it just continues on and on.

Of course, speaking of the Boomers, I fear that my generation (I'm 28) might be one of those unlucky historical examples of one which didn't get to do jack shit because they were so busy catering to the needs of their wealthy elders while trying to patch up the disasterous debts they left us. By the time they start to croak en masse it'll be too late to do anything all that interesting -- we'll be too old and too unimaginative, left only with the shadow of the dreams we once entertained.

Honestly (and sadly), I'm pretty sure that's the direction we're headed in. Happily, however, I also believe it's not too late to change that. That's why I support ideas like the Space Elevator; it's the sort of kick that might get us out of this funk and allow us to overcome the fate of being a generation the just paid too much for their houses.

Re:The crossroads of my generation (5, Interesting)

gcatullus (810326) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322182)

Sadly the "kick in the pants" has always been things like a world war or having a well funded arch enemy, like the old US vs. USSR enimity. Adversity breeds inovation. Prosperity breeds complacency. So, be careful what you wish for.

I'll take the asteroid (5, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322376)

> Sadly the "kick in the pants" has always been things like a world war or having a well funded arch enemy, like the old US vs. USSR enimity. Adversity breeds inovation. Prosperity breeds complacency. So, be careful what you wish for.

Which is why, for what little it's worth, I was disappointed to find that 2004 MN4 [wikipedia.org] was going to miss the Earth in 2038.

Because 35 years is just about the right length of time, not just to develop the technology to deflect the thing, but also to generate a new generation of kids - who won't merely value science and engineering as career paths, but who will see them as essential survival tools for the species.

Instead, we've got a dumbed-down educational system that would make Harrison Bergeron cringe, and the mentality that the only careers worth having are those of criminal/thug, celebrity/whore, or lawyer/lobbyist/politician.

Fuck it. We deserve to have that rock hit us.

Don't worry (2, Insightful)

CiXeL (56313) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322185)

all those people in china and india have similar hopes and dreams. While our low population gen X may not realize these dreams i guarantee you other countries will. We'll be pulled to the stars on the backs of third worlders.

Re:The crossroads of my generation (2, Interesting)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322219)

I fear that my generation (I'm 28) might be one of those unlucky historical examples of one which didn't get to do jack shit because they were so busy catering to the needs of their wealthy elders while trying to patch up the disasterous debts they left us.

Actually, you didn't do jack shit because you were too busy blogging and trying to reconcile it as something other than vanity.

I'm firmly convinced that had we Instant Messaging and Blogs and computer administrators who fancied themselves designers (and vice versa) fifty years ago, Apollo would still be no more than a Greek god.

Re:The crossroads of my generation (1)

Aztechian (804348) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322222)

wow, way to pass the blame there. You blame your situation on your parents in one sentence and say you wish you could change things the next. If you want to do something, do it. If not, don't use your parents as an excuse.

Re:The crossroads of my generation (3, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322309)

wow, way to pass the blame there. You blame your situation on your parents in one sentence and say you wish you could change things the next. If you want to do something, do it. If not, don't use your parents as an excuse.

I don't consider citing the basic facts to be "passing the blame". In the Real World, things happen for interconnected reasons -- that includes both progress and decay. You can't just *decide* that it's time for a renaissance. You need to move the things that provide the foundation for progress into position first, and that's not something that can always be done quickly or easily.

My worry is that the energies of my generation will be wasted, have already been wasted by the state of the world we've been handed. At best, I fear we're the set-up generation rather than one which moves mountains. At worst, we might be the ones who live through the decline of our civilization (not out of the question -- war without end and short-sighted economic policies can't go on forever without having an impact).

Re:The crossroads of my generation (4, Insightful)

Monty845 (739787) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322276)

It would be great if the Government of the US cared about space. Congress simply lacks the imagination nescessary to understand the value of space exploration. There are several things that need to change if the US (at least the government) is going to get anyway new with space exploration.

1. Accept that space exploration is risky, people will die, they knew the risk when they signed on, taking reasonable steps to ensure safety - great, stoping an entire program because of a small chance of something going wrong - not so great

2. Congress needs to think about what is in the best interests of the American people as a whole, not just thier constituents, even better they would think about the best interests of the world.

3. Congress needs to realize that most great discoveries are not predicted, funding a strong space program could provide unimagined rewards.

Frankly I doubt thats going to happen. I think the future of space lies in the hands of privite industry, they will find ways to make money is space and that is what will push us into the future. If the Government of the US lacks the will to lead us into space others will step forward eventually.

-P.S. I know that NASA has plans to go back to the moon etc, but they are not nearly ambitous enough.

Re:The crossroads of my generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322299)

If you think you're going to kick the Boomers to the curb in favor of the Space Elevator, your own elevator isn't reaching the top floor.

forget space (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322120)

You want to talk about the short commings of the predicted future then forget space where is my ROCKET CAR!

Re:forget space (1)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322244)

You want to talk about the short commings of the predicted future then forget space where is my ROCKET CAR!

Here it is [argoshpr.ch]

I must say the future is really disappointing!

full-res you say? (5, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322124)

Maybe Real Time 2030 will fret about how our college kids do little more than steal full-res holographic porn

Bah! If it doesn't have full tactile neural input, then I'm not interested.

There is hope! (5, Funny)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322130)

I, for one, am heartened by how much the shuttle has come to resemble the Millenium Falcon. At least in the reliability department.

Re:There is hope! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322226)

What do you expect when you have a 7 foot tall dog as your mechanic?

Re:There is hope! (1)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322305)

Which member of the Discovery crew was that again? I don't have a picture handy. (GD&R)

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322132)

first post! WOOP WOOP! WoooooAAAWoooooooOH!

Project Orion (2, Informative)

Ckwop (707653) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322134)

Project Orion [slashdot.org] would have made all these dreams come true. It still can, though we'd probably have to build one of these suckers in space.

Frankly, for travel in the solar system any other form of propulsion is misguided at best and outright stupid at worst!

Simon.

Re:Project Orion (1)

swelke (252267) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322294)

Frankly, for travel in the solar system any other form of propulsion is misguided at best and outright stupid at worst!

So does that mean that NASA is doing a good job? The Mars Climate Orbiter [wikipedia.org] was only misguided (by 83 miles. No, wait, kilometers.).

Well... (3, Interesting)

JonN (895435) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322135)

One must consider however that NASA is burdened with political and commercial pressure. However to say that space exploration is hitting a speed bump is quite stupid and incorrect. We are now in the time where personal and commercial space flights are nearing possible. I believe that commercial space flights are where the real adventure is. Sure, they don't have the capabilities that NASA does, however they are advancing their technology, and to have an adventure with one of these companies is a lot easier than becoming a NASA astronaut. If I remember one thing from my childhood, it is watching the movies where the hero jets around in his own space ship, and not having to listen to a governing body as to when and where he could fly.

Re:Well... (1)

revscat (35618) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322281)

We are now in the time where personal and commercial space flights are nearing possible.

Those aren't space flights. Those are high-altitude intercontinental jaunts. Yes, yes, I know. But what the article in question is talking about is interstellar travel. The difficulties with that are something that Richard Branson cannot solve. Yes, we may soon have aristocrats globe-hopping via space ships. But they will still be deep within Earth's gravity well, with only a tiny fraction of the energy necessary to escape it.

Libertarians in Space !!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322330)

If I remember one thing from my childhood, it is watching the movies where the hero jets around in his own space ship, and not having to listen to a governing body as to when and where he could fly.

It wasn't movies, it was cartoons.

Now let's look at real history books : the Columbus expedition was a government program.
The Norse/Viking expeditions where "private initiatives".
Which one succeeded in finding and opening a new world?

Don't do that! (3, Insightful)

BerntB (584621) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322385)

One must consider however that NASA is burdened with political and commercial pressure.
You are correct that there might, at last, be something happening in the launch business. But don't forget the last few decades.

NASA seems to have lobbied to stop other launch systems. To keep job security and their empire at maximum size.

All the space money went to the shuttle (and to the brutally expensive space station). It costs literally a couple of orders of magnitude more to send a lbs to orbit than NASA promised. (They promised hundreds of dollars/lbs to orbit.)

All other projects in human history with that kind of failure has been shut down. Often the responsible people were buried alongside, while still breathing.

To protect the shuttle, NASA (and their allies) murdered the Dream; they fscked our (as in humanity's) future. For job security and kickbacks. This can arguably be called a crime against humanity.

If you just shrug and say that it doesn't matter, it will keep happening.

Why Mars? (4, Insightful)

Swamii (594522) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322136)

When we haven't even done much with the Moon? I say start smaller then work our way up. Establish a base on the moon; grow plants in a contained greenhouse, get some population on the moon, make it a place that can sustain life for some time.

From there, with we'd have better understanding and experience in exploration and cultivation, and thus we could more easily work out our grander visions of Mars exploration.

Re:Why Mars? (5, Informative)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322161)

Read "The Case for Mars" by Roberty Zubrin. It basically demonstrates that the moon isn't actually an easier starting point and that Mars is, in most ways, far more worth the effort.

Don't Forget C (5, Funny)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322146)

Instead, we get a mission whose highlights were 'a) it came back; and b) an astronaut pulled bits of cloth out from between tiles.

Lest we forget c.)Took out the trash.

Making the journey (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322155)

It seems to me that the "next big thing" that has to happen is that the *nauts need to be able to survive/last the journey to distant places. Currently, places other than the moon, take a really long time to get to. This alone makes human travel infeasible for the near future.

Anyone know what, if any, inroads are being made in this area?

If I had one wish... (4, Insightful)

burtdub (903121) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322156)

If only people could stop overly romanticizing/denigrating the past and stop idealizing/fearing the future and just learn to make the most of the present.

Sigh...

Where's the Jetsons car I was promised? (2, Funny)

coastin (780654) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322159)

It seems that some time ago in my past, I read on the the back of a cereal box that by the time I was grownup I would be driving one of those nifty Jetsons cars that hoover and fly. Do I really have to grow up to get one?

Re:Where's the Jetsons car I was promised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322379)

If by "hoover" you meant "suck", Detroit's reached one of your goals already.

Um, we're getting what we paid for (4, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322166)

We're not paying for space travel, or even space exploration. We're paying for programmes. We get a space programme, then another one, then another one.

When we start paying for results, we'll get space travel and space exploration.

 

Re:Um, we're getting what we paid for (1)

JonN (895435) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322203)

Why do you think space tourism has gotten such a huge response thus far?

So then, (1)

w.p.richardson (218394) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322275)

your assertion is that the govt is the best mechanism for acheiving these ends?

I suppose that I would disagree with that assessment. I do agree with your fundamental idea, that more $ is required, but I think that this could be subsidized by entrepreneurs, rather than being asked to shovel more money into the Leviathan.

The other point to consider is that the govt is gutless - look at the fear among the people that "OMFG, something is going to happen!" - this was the story of the flight. Not to minimize the impact of the death of astronauts, but there is invariably risk involved in strapping yourself to a kerosene tank and flying into space. However, how else do we learn? Someone takes the risks, it has to be done that way.

What would you feel on commercial mining on Mars? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322174)

I'd imagine, a rather substantial percentage of Earthling would cry bloody murder and condemn attempts to mine Mars for anything, even if anything worth mining (and transporting back) was discovered there.

Like it not, but without the chance to profit, no great adventures can be sustained...

Re:What would you feel on commercial mining on Mar (1)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322207)

Wasn't it Larry Niven who suggested using Venus as a garbage dump? I think the story was "Flash Crowd".

Re:What would you feel on commercial mining on Mar (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322264)

Like it not, but without the chance to profit, no great adventures can be sustained...

Well... Unless you happen to what to start your own country free from Earth rule. Of course being rich also helps, but then you are usually the one doing the ruling on Earth.

On the serious side, when Explorers came to the Americas in the 1500's they'd thought they find riches to bring back with them (and some did), but most of the found nothing but native americans and lots of land and it was the settlers that got the most of this situation and even started their own nation or two after a century or so.

Re:What would you feel on commercial mining on Mar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322356)

There would be no one against mining mars ... until they find those damn Martian Artifacts. Next thing you know your mutant mining crew is rebelling, they are calling for unions, higher wages, shirts with more sleeves, etc.

What else do you expect... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322175)

from the POST COLUMBINE ERA!

The problem is power (5, Insightful)

SlayerofGods (682938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322181)

Seriously, we need a new power source. As long as we're burning shit to get into space we're never going to be able get anywhere.

Re:The problem is power (1)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322291)

Actually, given the rural pollution problems from chicken and pig lots, a rocket that would burn shit would be a welcomed innovation.

Dear Sci Fi Whiners (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322187)

Considering the Viking landers were digging around Martain soil back in 1976, 'we figured the place would be necklaced with orbiters and cris-crossed by rovers by now. Maybe there'd even be astronauts (or cosmonauts or taikonauts) tracing the courses of unimaginably ancient rivers.' Instead, we get a mission whose highlights were 'a) it came back; and b) an astronaut pulled bits of cloth out from between tiles.'

Sadly, it appears most sci-fi writers and buffs were somewhat lacking in the taste of reality department. Economics, i.e. business potential are more likely to drive space exploration than scientific interest. While we're seeing fledgling efforts, it's still a pretty iffy thing to leave a perfectly good planet behind to build a house on the Moon or Mars.

Seems much of the Sci-fi I've read was more a vehicle for another story, i.e. it's not about the lasers stupid, it's the exploration of man's inhumanity to man, sorta thing.

Looking at how ultimately fragile our space crafts are, and the terrific amount of stored energy it takes to escape the Earth's surface, the one thing that should come home to people who expect Buck Rogers is this isn't as easy as putting pen to paper and scribbling up interplantetary travel.

Sadly, the real drama of what has transpired to get this far isn't as entertaining (although The Right Stuff and Apollo 11 took a stab at it) as Star Wars.

To boldy go ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322190)

NASA 2005 AD: to boldy go where John Glenn went 43 years ago...

A rule of thumb (3, Interesting)

paiute (550198) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322193)

I too grew up on the hard sci-fi, and most of the future has not lived up to my junior high expectations. Now I know that if you want to know what the world will be like in ten years, look back ten years and compare that technology to what you have. Add 5-10%. Adjust interval accordingly.

Re:A rule of thumb (4, Interesting)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322313)

Really, what happened was that most sci-fi writers at the time guessed completely wrong at what the major focus of innovation, engineering, and research would be. It's not their fault, of course - after all, the things they envisioned are perfectly rational extensions of the most modern trends of their times, and conveniently, made for good stories as well.

But for each unit of research, much larger results were found elsewhere - namely, in computers and communications. What most sci-fi writers didn't predict (until the trends became obvious) were personal computers cheaper than televisions, and a massive distributed network rapidly assimilating all human knowledge. The average person has an amount of computing power at his disposal simply unimaginable - or worse, impossibly unbelievable - to the sci-fi writers and futurists of the space age.

I predict that sci-fi writers and futurists who center their stories around extrapolations of today's advances in computing power are similarly missing the next unimagined leap in technology, the seeds of which almost certainly exist today.

Re:A rule of thumb (3, Interesting)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322332)

Ugh- I know- Science isn't what I read about when I was young. Although sex isn't like what I expected from reading Penthouse Forum, either, so I guess I shouldn't have gotten my hopes so high (Or low depending on your morals...)
We will get back to space- It will just take a fundamental change in attitudes in the World. Much of the space race technology led in part to the current American/British/Russian military dominance. As soon as China starts lobbing things into orbit and sending them to distant planets, Anglo-Nationalism (I know that is a contradiction because Anglos aren't a nation...) will take over and the Americans, with help from our friends the Brits and Japanese etc. will get our asses in gear on the space thing....

The (now) future is better than I ever imagined (2, Insightful)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322209)

It's not what I expected, but then, what ever is? No, we don't have flying cars or Martian vacations. What we do have is real-time access to vast reams of knowledge for most of the developed world. Communicate with anyone, anywhere. Watch any one of hundreds of thousands of movies with inexpensive devices found in most homes. Get almost any book you would care to read delivered to your home. Fly anywhere in the US - afford ably. Hunger has been eliminated in the developed world. People are healthier, live longer. The list is endless.

Unfortunately, there are large portions of the globe that do not have access to these modern miracles, but it will come... it will come.

Re:The (now) future is better than I ever imagined (1)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322266)

From an old sitcom. One of the characters imagines going back in time, and has been told that in the future there will be flying cars:

"No, in the future there won't be flying cars! We'll have powerful computers that sit on your desk and play... Solitaire!"

Hunger eliminated? I don't think so. (4, Informative)

nathan s (719490) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322360)

Check this link [bread.org] for statistics (with sources) - some 30 million people in the US itself experience some level of hunger.

I've been there; when I was a kid, there was a period of time when my parents had no food in the house, and my mother baked corn meal and water because we had absolutely nothing left. We were the recipients of the local church "feed a needy family" that year, and that wasn't really fun.

Frankly, I don't care (1)

Toba82 (871257) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322228)

Really now, did anyone EXPECT to be able to fly to the moon for lunch? Until some sort of antigravitational device is made, it will always be very expensive. Did you really think we would colonize Mars unless we HAD to? All those things are cool and all, but what really matters? The most important things I see in the future are improved energy sources (efficient, low environmental impact, small, cheap, and/or reliable), more capable computing, and possibly a change in the mindset that cool == good.

Culture change (3, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322229)

Now I wasn't alive when our major space triumphs were taking place, so I may be all wet, but it seems to me like there's been a fundamental change in our culture that will prevent us from replicating or exceeding those successes.

Today, we are obsessed with our own personal wealth. Sure, we think, it would be nice if we could "afford" to do basic research, to spend serious money on exploration -- but no, we can't afford it, because it's more important to be able to buy more fancy cars (or boats or airplanes) than anyone else.

Reading sources from the '50s and '60s, I get the impression that there was much more concern (possibly driven by the race with the Soviets, but who cares?) for the advancement of knowledge for its own sake. People were much more willing to sacrifice a little bit of wealth for the long-term future of the society.

I wish people would think less about whether they can afford the electronic seat cooler in their new Benz and more about what kind of society they want to live in over the long term. And, no, I'm not trying to take away anyone's "freedom" -- I'm just exhorting them to think less shortsightedly.

What put us in space in the first place ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322233)

What put us in space in the first place was the Soviets (remember them). If it hadn't been for them, we might not have bothered.

The uses of space that have an economic benefit are being exploited. We have GPS, communications and remote sensing. The stuff that is strictly of scientific interest takes a back seat.

If we want to see some real 'progress' in space, we need the Chinese to force us into it. :-)

This just in! (5, Insightful)

swelke (252267) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322236)

This just in! As a way to get into space, the space shuttle sucks! Wow, that's amazing. Do you mean that all of those glowing reviews of it I've heard for as long as I can remember (I'm 23) were bull?

Seriously though, a lot of science fiction writers have been warning us about just what is happening. If we focus on "solving all our problems on the ground first" then we'll never move into space properly. The same will happen if we're too pussyfooted to accept the occasional death due to space travel. It's already safer than any major frontier exploration in history. (I'm not saying we should waste astronauts, but that doesn't mean we should quit going into orbit for 2+ years just because a few die either.) If we don't go out and build something semi-permanent beyond Earth (the Moon or the asteroid belt, maybe Mars) pretty soon, we're going to end up screwing things up on Earth badly enough (economic collapse, ecological disaster, evil killer robots, whatever) that we can't go to space. In the long run, having groups of humans separated by a few million miles is probably the best way to keep us from killing each other all the time.

Physical limitations to the universe (5, Insightful)

revscat (35618) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322240)

I think this highlights the fundamental difficulty we face in getting elsewhere in the universe, namely the difficulty of getting enough energy to move stuff around. This is not an easy nut to crack, and despite optimistic predictions it is quite possible that it is one that is insoluble. Yes, we have had many scientific breakthroughs throughout human history. Yes, naysayers are frequently proven wrong. But "past success is no indicator of future performance", as the disclaimer says, and I think this is no different.

Until we are able to get bodies of non-trivial mass to speeds that are an integer percentage of light speed we will for all practical purposes be stuck on this zealot-infested rock. Getting men and women into space and having them survive is extremely difficult even for the short periods of time the STS is in orbit. This shows that allowing them to survive for months on end is a nigh-impossible task without some fundamental advances, and there are no areas in physics that we can look to for hope in this regard.

Yes, it's possible we may one day colonize Mars, Kim Stanly Robinson style. But I doubt it. Just because it is wished for and can be imagined does not mean it is physically possible in any real sense.

Same old, same old (1)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322241)

Maybe Real Time 2030 will fret about how our college kids do little more than steal full-res holographic porn when they're not getting their financial identities stolen by cyber-jihadists eager to build more backpack nukes.


Sheesh, what a bunch of whiners.

"Kids these days are so lazy."

"Ooooh, scary hackers! We must be thinking!!"

"Ooooh, scary terrorists! We must be thinking even harder!!!"

If these guys want a better future, they should get off their collective butts, stop bullying the government and everybody else to give them a guaranteed return on their investments and do it themselves. I mean, isn't that their philosophy?

Problems on the ground come first (3, Insightful)

zapp (201236) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322242)

The only reason we ever made it into space was competition with the Russians. Technology has never been the limitation, only social interest and drive.

It is hard to justify the cost of "the future" when there is still so much turmoil and suffering on the surface of our own planet.

I usually try to avoid politics and social debates, and I'm all for space exploration, but can you really tell me people in the USA or the world should go hungry or go without health care while we spend billions on sending people to space?

What do you expect? (1)

Beautyon (214567) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322258)

If in the future there are 'cyper jihadists' you can instanly infer why the once imagined future has again not come to pass. The countries with the money will have been spending all their time and cash on war and imperialism instead of space exploration.

There would be no jihadists anywhere were it not for the ambitions of the USA, who would do well to spend all their excess money on new types of propulsion and space exploration, rather than getting eveyone in the world to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Government Bureaucracy is the Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322261)

NASA should be moved to a think tank model like DARPA.
Private Industry pioneers like Burt Rutan and Zefram Cochrane :-) are the future of Space Exploration...

Gov't (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322262)

Good lord people, when we start letting private companies do this we will see some progress. With the amount of red tape that has to be cut through, gov't lifers slowing things down, and lack of risktaking you wont see anything happening.

might I remind people of the recent success of the private funded experiments? http://www.xprizefoundation.com/about_us/default.a sp [xprizefoundation.com]

They were able to do in a short time what has taken the Gov'ts of the world well over 40 years to do.

Not that the government is all bad, its just once beaurocrats and sue happy people are done we have a highly ineffecient machine for innovation.

Re:Gov't (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322367)

Yeah, right, it's the red tape that's the problem, not all the gravity.

The X-prize winners didn't even get into orbit. They didn't even rival the Mercury missions, which happened so long ago you probably haven't heard of them.

Plus, why can't anyone in this damn discussion spell bureaucracy?

solve global warming before terraforming dreams (1)

qromodyn (741144) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322268)

The sad truth is that we are not meant to live on other planets. Our bodies are naturally designed to live without any protection from radiation, breath the air without filtration, drink the water without purification, eat the vegetation and animals. Wouldn't it be easier to fix the relatively minor problems with air pollution and global warming here (a few degrees of tweak) than dreaming of living on a planet or spacestation in the vacuum and intense radiation of space.

absurdity (1)

justforaday (560408) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322270)

Does anybody else out there find the state of space travel to be totally absurd? On the one hand, we're dealing with a task that is inherently very dangerous and complex. Going into space and back ain't exactly easy (it's rocket science, y'know). And then we're talking about sending guys to Mars in about 15 years - into environments that we barely understand. Yet, at the same time, we're grounding shuttles that only go up a few hundred miles until we can make them totally foolproof and 100% safe. Risk-taking is all part of the game. I agree that we should try to take as many precautions as possible. But doing so to the detriment of the goal is simply counterproductive. Until the bureaucrats that are running the show realize this, we're not going anywhere...

You know why were going nowhere? (1)

AlltheCoolNamesGone (838035) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322272)

In my opinion it's because society as a whole have stop caring. Right now this generation cares about one thing. ME
I don't really think this is right or wrong for various reasons but it's very sad...

To The Idiots at the WSJ: (5, Insightful)

RickHunter (103108) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322325)

You want to know why we don't have a space program like the one you're imagining? Because you and the idiot businessmen you write for decided it was too expensive, and pushed your pet politicians to cut funding for it and dump productive space programs in exchange for pork, business pay-offs, tax cuts, and other corrupt practices. Now you've realized that to expand, your economy needs to go into orbit, and that you needed to fund these things 20 years ago for them to be ready now, and are trying to find someone else to blame for the predicament your greed caused, so as not to risk your grossly overinflated salary.

Of course, I doubt you'll learn anything from this, as you and said businessmen have, as a collective, the recall and adaptation ability of the average peanut. But on the off-chance that you do, in fact, remember something, I'd like it to include the phrase:

"Payback's a bitch, ain't it?"

That explains the job (1)

rowama (907743) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322343)

"Wall Street columnists are lamenting." Well, this explains why they JUST TALK about making money: Early in their careers, they speculated big money on HAL Industries (TM). Now, it's not looking good.

How about robotic exploration (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowdog (154277) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322348)

Human space exploration is fun to think about. Migrating tribes colonizing distant planets in other solar systems, and all that. But maybe our early successes have blinded us to the realities. Space is *big*. Human life support systems are expensive (in terms of overall resources including time, not just money).

NASA's current thinking on space seems to be like dreaming about a fairy land, with chocolate rivers and peppermint trees. Just because we can manufacture candy and we can make a place like Disneyland, doesn't mean that fairylands are going to become real.

We are doing cargo cult Star Trek.

And wasting a lot of money on it. Our money would be much better spent on robotic missions, which have a far bigger bang for the buck. And by the time we are ready for a human Mars mission, robots will probably be quite capable of the autonomous thinking and initiative that humans bring to the table. So what purpose is served by spending the extra overhead for human exploration, and doing 1/100th of the science that we could be doing for the same money? None, other than perpetuating a fairyland fantasy.

bottom line (1)

snooz_crash (802357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322352)

Exploration of yore was based on the promise of riches, influence and/or power available in the unknown. Corporations and countries today are no diffent from the past from which they came. Everyone bases their ventures on the possible returns. Until there is economic benefit, we will be regulated to Rovers on earth only (Available to you for only $36,000!!!).

The problem is Liquid Rockets (1)

TheNarrator (200498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322354)

The high school mathetmatics teacher, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) [wikipedia.org], came up with the idea for liquid oxygen fueld rockets more than 70 YEARS AGO!!! Almost everything in our space program is based on liquid fueld rockets! If we had invented and implemented a better space travel technology, perhaps we would have colonized the solar system by now.

Other interests (2, Insightful)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322359)

The problem i see with space exploration is that at this stage it's done entirely for it's own sake. The Cold War sparked the moon landings and our first steps into space, and now that's over there's no competitive ethos to give us any reason to return there. Besides, research and development in these areas cannot continue while companies profit in the inefficiency of current technology. Why are we still using the internal combustion engine, developed over 100 years ago? Simply, because there's profit in the fact that it's hopelessly inefficient. The same applies to space travel, if we give it a competitive or commercial context it will grow, and that's the only reason man went to the moon

We're still moving in the right direction... (2, Interesting)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322362)

I for one do feel somewhat cheated by the lack of real manned space exploration in the last 25 years. I am one of those guys who used to read Heinlein and Clarke back when it was not popular to do so (we're talking about ancient history here). However, I'm still optimistic about the future. While we haven't been sending any people to explore the Moon or Mars (or other destinations), the technology we need for practical human colonies on the Moon or Mars has been developing and is just around the corner (told you I was an optimist). Materials science is coming up with remarkable advances monthly. Computer capability is advancing daily. Robotics, genomics, data mining, space propulsion, etc., etc. Nanotechnology promises to bring about disruptive breakthroughs in all of these areas within 10 years. These days if you don't read about a major breakthrough in some tech area daily, it's a slow news day.

I think it's right for business to get into the business of near Earth space exploration. Real competition between businesses will produce advances. And business competition will be paid for by those who have money, instead of tax dollars that could be better spent solving some of our real problems on this planet. What we need is a framework for that competition (government regulation or the lack of, tax incentives, public discussion, etc.). NASA should concentrate on away-from-Earth space and on developing new technology, or in other words those things that are too risky for business to tackle.

Just for fun, here's a link to one of my favorite (but weird) space launch development efforts [jpaerospace.com].

duh! it was a test flight! (3, Insightful)

jkerman (74317) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322372)

The stated goal of the mission was to be a test flight to gather data for future flights. while they were there, they restocked the ISS. Im not sure why the heavy criticism post flight.

Sure, there is something to be said maybe about "wasting" a mission like that, but they did exactly what they said they would do, and now its a suprise?

The next flight doesnt have much more of a goal, so why not rip on that instead of the (admittedly low-goaled) extremely successful flight?

Here's a clue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13322375)

Maybe there'd even be astronauts (or cosmonauts or taikonauts)...

...when they're not getting their financial identities stolen by cyber-jihadists eager to build more backpack nukes.

Here's a clue: you won't get anywhere until you stop being such a fucking racist asshole.

Different paradime (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322382)

We have a different paradime today. With the moon landing a few people risked their life for science and exporation, while thousands of other backed them up and millions maybe billions sat back watching. All while a war raged in a little known country of Vitenam.

Now everybody can risk their name, job and reputation by putting up a webpage and saying what they think to the entire world. You can effect change, run a business, and perhaps get killed [slashdot.org] for it. Now is the time where the small guy can have a voice, and with luck the powers that be wont stomp on us [slashdot.org].

Before the 70s no one saw cheap computer resources (5, Insightful)

jdb8167 (204116) | more than 8 years ago | (#13322394)

Something that any one who is concerned that we didn't meet the goals of "golden era" science fiction should consider. Not a single one of those authors envisioned cheap, ubiquitous, and unspecialized computer hardware and software. Not one. The closest was Heinlein and he didn't get very close. See Heinlein's The Rolling Stones or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

I grew up on science fiction in the 70s and recognized around 1977 that things were not going to be like in the books. Just because we didn't meet one goal doesn't mean that we should be pessimistic about the future. What the future holds is unpredictable.
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