Got one of those occasional ‘question’ emails from the planetary society, and it rather brought me up short. In the Stars Trilogy I write about space technologies and how they might change the future of humanity, but where did I get started? What made me want to write about it? So I’ve decided to send the planetary society this as my answer.
What sparked my passion for Space and space travel? The first thing that springs to mind is timing. I was born in 1957 at the very beginning of the ‘Space Age’. The year the Soviet Union put Sputnik into orbit and lifted the eyes of the world up into the great nowhere, above mere terrestrial squabbles. Since then, man has taken his first faltering steps off the planet. Sent satellites into orbit, sent men and women outside the thin layers of our biosphere into the unforgiving near vacuum beyond. Created global communications relays. Landed craft on Mars (Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity) and Venus (Venera, Pioneer). Dropped a probe into Jupiters maelstrom of an atmosphere. Skimmed the tails of comets. Men and women have gone into orbit (Soyuz, Mercury, Gemini, Shuttle) and even landed on the moon (Apollo). The Hubble and Kepler orbital observatories, to mention but two, have helped expand our knowledge of the Universe almost all the way back to its very genesis.
The second thing for me was Science Fiction. The worlds created by Anderson, Asimov, Bester, Harrison, Heinlein, Niven, Van Vogt, to name but a few. Their visions sparked off my own desire. If I was never going to be an Astronaut or pilot (Eyesight issues), I at least wanted to write about it.
Space exploration has formed a palpable background to my life, and continuously fired my curiosity about more than mere terrestrial matters. Its constant round of discovery formed the background noise of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The dream of space travel has never ceased to fill me with wonder. I say this as a self confessed, dyed in the wool cynic of over fifty five years of age who has never worked in Aerospace.
The sheer scale of the awesome and continual endeavour that is space exploration, driven as it is by little more than mans indomitable curiosity, is nothing short of inspiring. In order to find our place in the universe we needs must reach out to find where we have not come from, in order to compare our origins with other places which failed to bring forth the miracle of life. Or may yet be discovered to harbour life.
We are fragile beings on a small, and possibly unremarkable world in the greater cosmic scheme of things. However, we need to find out if this is true by looking outwards, because unless we look, we will not know. That is what sparks my passion for space exploration. Whatever answers we find.
New discoveries about the universe around us flood in every single day. So much so, it is often very hard simply to keep up. While this might discourage some and overwhelm others, it simply makes me want to know more. To see more. To feel more. To read more. To comprehend more and not rely on the blind insistence of others. To be more alive. Space exploration is the triumph of inquisitiveness over ignorance, the bringer of light from outer darkness. To me, it is the very personification of hope.