Tuesday, October 05, 2004


I haven’t quite felt that kind of excitement since the space race of the sixties - I spent a sizeable part of yesterday afternoon watching the Spaceship One webcast. It was like something out of a “Boy’s Own” magazine: a seemingly puny little craft, hardly bigger than a family car and guided by a real human being at the controls, takes off into space, with hardly any more to-do than a routine light-aircraft joy-ride…

The big kid in me feels the excitement of adventure, senses the thrill of a journey into the unknown; the engineer in me marvels at the elegance, the simplicity, the overall right-ness of the design; the designer in me admires the aerodynamic beauty of Rutan’s creations; the inverse-techno-geek in me shakes his head in disbelief at the fact of live streamed video from space, even though the techno-geek can be blasé about the technology involved.

Most of all though, the pioneer in me salutes the determination that says “I don’t know I can achieve this, but I believe I can. Even though no-one has trodden this path before me, I trust my ability and my instinct to take me to this wonderful place where many will follow”.

Yes, at one level you might argue that in the face of the world’s problems – our problems – this event was an irrelevant and unnecessary side-show, but it feels to me that perhaps yesterday saw the true dawning of the space age, a day that history will mark as the beginning of the era of true space travel – a natural progression that began with travel to the next town, then travel to the next country, then travel to the next continent.

All that has gone before was a prelude; a place for big budgets, big science, mammoth feats of engineering - but the people involved were just part of the machine that made it all happen. Spaceship One stands all that on its head – this is space travel for the people, by the people. Good on yer, Burt.

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