Is it rocket science?


Space travel has become boring!

It didn’t used to be, as a child, I watched live TV pictures of people walking, talking, singing, bouncing, hitting golf balls and driving a car, 238 thousand miles away ON THE MOON!

From the moment my mother woke me up before 4am on July 20 1969 by whispering, “They’re on the moon!” to let me know the Eagle had landed and make sure I was up in time to watch Armstrong’s first steps, to the splashdown of Apollo 17 in December 1972, space travel was THE most exciting and inspiring thing there ever was or could ever be.

Humans have not left earth orbit since that last Apollo flight in 72. All they do now is laps of this planet and they’re only a couple of hundred miles above us.

We used to talk about “space exploration” and the “conquest of space” but now nothing is being explored or conquered. Boring people just go round in circles, to quote David Bowie,  “sitting in a tin can”. Instead of driving cars and hitting golf balls on another world, we just get to see different people sucking a floating globule of water into their mouth. How can the next generation of astronauts and cosmonauts possibly be inspired by that?

Things are getting worse and by that, I mean even MORE boring. When astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko touched down on Earth last week after almost a year in space, Commander Kelly returned with leaves that had been grown on the International Space Station from seeds. They are those limp leaves called “rocket” (a leaf that must have been named as a joke because nothing could be less like an actual rocket!). The leaves are being distributed to schools to allow pupils to compare their growth with plants that have stayed on Earth. It doesn’t get much more boring than that!

When I was a kid, I got to see something far more exciting. In 1971, my parents took me to the Liverpool Show in Wavertree. The star attraction that year was the Apollo 10 command module. The actual spacecraft that Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan had orbited the moon in two years earlier. Looking at the burnt heat shield and scorch marks on the spacecraft caused by re-entry and comparing that to the unburnt metal on the low loader truck it was sitting on was a lot more inspiring than comparing limp bits of salad!

In her 1992 hit, Tasmin Archer described the moon as a “Sleeping Satellite” and sang about the dream died with the Eagle’s flight…

Craic on!

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