The title comes from a well-worn phrase, which I first consciously took notice of while listening to a brilliant Dan Rather CBS radio essay from the early 1980s (which disappeared into the seam between old tech and the Internet-Is-Forever era) and for which, should anyone have a transcript or the actual recording form, I would pay real cash money.
The subject, at a time when Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff was a best-seller, and going to become a movie, was the American (and human) drive to reach out into space, versus the short-sighted drive of jackassically ignorant congressional (but I repeat myself) appropriators to slash funding for pure exploration. Hate on Dipshit Dan all you want for any number of Usual Suspect Liberal Retardation, but he came up as a local Texas newscaster in the era of Kennedy, NASA, Mercury/Gemini/Apollo, and in that one essay, from before the Challenger disaster, he beautifully encapsulated and expressed why we should always be reaching for the next milestone in space.
And he got, and expressed, in a way that I still mostly remember 40 years later, that cutting NASA (as the idjits in Congress were then doing, which led in a straight-line way to killing the astronauts on Challenger just a few years afterwards), was the equivalent of a tribe or civilization "eating the seed corn," consuming the grain now for a short-term gain and a quick meal, but condemning the future to starvation and extinction.
This is your space program when the bureaucrats take over.
Makes you really look forward to handing them your healthcare, huh?
I bring it up because over at his blog, Silicon Graybeard has a couple of recent posts, one on Amazon's Jeff Bezos and his latest engine test, and the prior one noting that from beyond the edge of the solar system, Voyager just keeps plugging away.
And my rantastic observation is simply:
"Why in hell aren't we surpassing what we did 30-40-50 years ago?!?"
Voyager is great stuff from '70s tech.
Now 'splain why, with Moore's Law and a few hundred other things, no one's working on sending out a 4K camera to see the same things Voyager did, at a wee few orders better resolution.
We've proved it's doable, as Voyager flies out of the solar system.
Or sending similar packages to each planet, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, etc.
Instead of, I dunno, not spending one second of NASA budget on asstardian pseudoscience things like anthropo-fraudulent globull warming, or outreach to sixth century goat-humping superstitions.
Let alone abdicating completely more manned space travel.
I can get over no jet packs and flying cars, but going to the moon a few times, and then just...quitting?
When Matt friggin' Damon has a better grasp of what NASA's mission should be than NASA does, it's probably time to burn it down, and start over from scratch. (Or move the entire military side to Vandenburg, and lease Canaveral and Houston back to Space-X etc. The only thing NASA should be doing is running the museum and memorabilia concession sales.)
Stop screwing around. We need to science the $#!^ out of this.
I grew up a short bicycle ride from Rocketdyne (who built the Saturn V engines that sent us to the moon), and on Saturdays listened to them testing engines in the hills outside LA. Which you could hear from 30 miles away. Now half their facility is a strip mall. Two generations have been gypped out of their heritage.
Space is our wading pool. As Neil McDonough said in a viral 2014 Cadillac commercial "Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That's right, we went up there...and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there, left the keys in it. D'ya know why? 'Cause we're the only ones going back up there, that's why."
Boom. Mic drop.
SiG points out rightfully,
"Voyager was only possible because of the orbital lineup that gave them the 'grand tour', slingshotting from one planet to the next, and completing the tour."
I get the Grand Tour thing, but we should have progressed in launch vehicles to the point that we don't care about that lovely one-time window anymore. Send craft to all of them, regularly, instead of doing the Solar System In One Tour. For the time, it was genius economy, but now it's time to dig in for the long haul, not just hit-and-run tour bus tourism.
It took one president about 5 minutes to give both the pointy heads and the ignoratii in government a vision that propelled them forward for a decade.
All I'm asking for is that, from time to time, someone else come along and get them another push. Momentum and serendipity will take care of the rest. I'm sending this on a flatscreen bigger than my parents' color TV was in 1969, from a PC with more computing power than the sum total of the entire world's space programs in 1969. Because we went to the moon.
We don't starve now in the first World because we have entire supermarkets full of packaged and canned goods, because back 200+ years ago, Napoleon needed a better way to feed his armies on the march.
Originally invented to feed Napoleon's armies; now available everywhere near you.
Discovery drives technology, and technology changes the world.
It's long past time to give the fat kid on the swing another push.
Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, et al aren't our fiction, they're our future. Exploring, and eventually colonizing, everywhere we can go, isn't just what we can do, it's what we should do. Auto-opening doors are on every 7-11; pocket flip-open communicators are so 1990.
It's time for transporters, and warp drive.
I'm fine with going forward one step at a time, even missing my generation's turn, as long as we're going forward.
And given what we spend, versus what they deliver, it's time for NASA to either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.
Space isn't going anywhere. But we should be.