…to return to the stars.
Once again, this started out as just a comment to Shannon’s post on 40th anniversary of the moon landing and where we go from here. But I had to break out the blog because I can’t seem hold my tongue in these affairs and the comment box was getting pretty cramped. ;)
Space exploration must be the domain of the private sector.
Governments must sway and bend with the will, and the purse, of the people, but a private company or even a wealthy individual is not so obliged. It is precisely because there are bigger fish to fry that each group must stick to what they can handle the best.
Individuals like Burt Rutan and his SpaceShip One accomplished something that would have taken a large organization such as NASA years longer and millions more. This is merely the byproduct of a bureaucracy that smaller companies can exist quite happily without.
As a point of comparison, it was private citizens, not government lead expeditions, that finally settled in the West. It was difficult, dangerous and often deadly, but there exist citadels today as testaments to the sacrifice of those early explorers. And while similar in sentiment, it will be different and more noble this time too. There are no prior populations that will be displaced as a result of our ventures and the riches to be had are far more extensive.
There was once a documentary on the Discovery channel called : “Space Colonies: Living among the stars“. I first saw it in 1999 and I was still in high school at the time. It’s funny because I’m not normally moved by these types of things, but it was then that I decided; I’m either going into space some day or die trying.
Impressionable age plus sentimental impressions lead to the craziest ideas, eh?
But I’m reminded of a quote by the character Q of StarTrek describing the unknown of space in very similar terms :
If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid
The exploration of space will be the most expensive expendeture of resources, sweat and blood since our trek out of Africa, but I believe expansion into space is vital for our species to survive. A cilization that does not grow or strive for greatness beyond those of their ancestors will stagnate and die a slow and unspectacular death. Since we are now settling into the global civilization, the stakes are much higher, but the rewards awaiting are far more enticing as well.
As for the Guidance Computer source, I would bet it contains virtually no run-time error checking. Those days, a programmer was expected to know the precise length of the data being stored in memory so overwrite checks would be redundant. And every byte would be precious so it was probably the most compact code and, at the same time, the most capable code ever written as well.
And looks like the flame is still alive and well among programmers reaching for the stars. The Open FlightLinux project is striving to create a secure platform based on Linux specifically for spacecraft.