January 29, 2021

The Awesome Normalcy of Space

2021 ushers in a whole new era in spaceflight, and it's incredible to see how far we've come.

The Awesome Normalcy of Space

I'm currently reading American Moonshot: JFK and the Space Race by Douglas Brinkley, and then I go, browsing away during a break between meetings, and I see this. It's a bit whiplash, going from a time when literally anything having to do with space meant newspaper headlines and breathless coverage, to an era where, on the daily, we're performing interstellar miracles all across the globe.

In so many science fiction stories, regular rockets and the ubiquity of starships is taken as a given. People come and go from planets like you and I might skip down our steps to the store. Putting those scenes on the page used to mean an inward, snarky smile at how far away this future had to be.

Now, look at all this!

We have satellites circling the planet providing internet to far-flung locales, bringing innovation and economic parity to places so far left out of major innovations (and Netflix).

We have planes bringing rockets up to the edge of the atmosphere to reduce cost and fuel needed to launch the things.

A big new telescope might launch that'll give us a great picture of the universe while paying tribute to one of NASA's great leaders in James Webb.

A private, American company (SpaceX) is ferrying astronauts to the space station for the first time since the space shuttle program ended, bringing lower cost competition to launches, while at the same time, SpaceX is further testing its Mars-and-beyond Starship vehicle.

More companies and countries than ever before are investing in, and launching vehicles, experiments, and people into space.

It's exciting to see the wonders we've written about for so long creeping closer and closer with every passing week, day, hour. While I'm not kidding myself about my chances of blasting off this rock someday and seeing the Earth from a whole new vantage point, the idea isn't so far afield anymore either.

Yes, there's a pandemic. Yes, there's hunger, and poverty, and global warming. All huge problems that need to be tackled (arguably moreso than space exploration). That's why I see private companies getting invested in the stars as a huge positive, as it lets governments focus more on what's best for their citizens, letting their science-supporting dollars hit where they're most effective, rather than having to prop up an entire industry by themselves.

2021 is going to be a big year in many ways, hopefully more good than bad. Personally, I can't wait to see what new discoveries we make, and how much smaller the gap between the Earth and the Stars becomes.