Take a one-way trip to Mars? Now that’s balls.
That’s exactly what’s missing from our current space program: big, hairy balls. We worry about costs, about safety, about how people are going to get along. Meanwhile there are plenty of volunteers ready to be strapped in and blasted into space. Sure, they know they could die, but they’re willing to take the risk because they know it needs to be done.
Think about the old days. Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Buzz Aldrin, Yuri Gagarin… These guys didn’t let their mortality stop them. Even the atmosphere-bound guys like Chuck Yeager accepted there was a chance the only way they’d return to the ground was in a flaming ball of wreckage. Time was these guys were the heroes and role models. Kids wanted to grow up and be blasted into space, too.
Now kids want to be Hannah Montana.
Of course, it might help if the space program were a little sexier. If you’ve got the money, you can fly across the ocean in first-class luxury. Cars and planes are loaded up with all the latest technology, and smartphones have become disposable toys. Meanwhile, my iPod touch probably has more computing power than what’s under the Space Shuttle’s dashboard. If private jets are souped-up Ferraris, the Space Shuttle is a ’70s-era woody station wagon held together with duct tape and Bondo.
You want to bring back space heroes? Build that Mars ship. Show them something new. You can’t tell me anything we build now isn’t going to be light years beyond the tin cans we put up in the ’60s.
You want to bring back space heroes? Let them break new boundaries and brave new frontiers. Give these heroes a reason to put those big, hairy balls to use.
You want to bring back space heroes? Stop talking about it and do it. Stop sweating every little detail, because they only way we’re really going to know if something’s going to work is to try it.
Load ‘em up, strap ‘em in, light the fire.