It is a sad time for those of us who see our future beyond the mere limits of our atmosphere. With NASA’s cancellation of the space shuttle programme, we see the slow but inevitable decline in our passion for space. To those at NASA who fought to keep the space shuttle programme running for as long as it has, and also to those who watched with genuine fascination when the shuttles were launched, or waited eagerly for the latest news from orbit, I can only offer my sympathies.
I had hoped, perhaps foolishly, that man would find a path to Mars within my lifetime. As a child, there were many television shows that looked into our future and proposed a vision that, while often ludicrously ambitious, implied that we as a race were upon the cusp of moving beyond our world.
All is not completely lost, however, and DARPA are seeking petitions from private agencies and corporations to look into the problem of long-distance space travel. While this comes with a host of problems – not least the lack of a real financial motive for private concerns – several individuals have stepped forwards already to examine the problems at hand.
Significantly, J. Craig Venter has proposed a method to transmit our genome across the gulf of space, and to thus grow a fresh colony at a great distance. This is comparable in many ways to the work of the Gemini Somatics Corporation, who have proposed just such a method, albeit without reference to DARPA’s latest initiative.
Who knows what manner of man will be the first to set foot among the stars?