So, I suspect a lot of us have seen this picture floating about the Internet (for people too lazy to click, it has two columns–the first is Star Trek and a piece of technology, and the second is that technology being invented in real life). And at the point it says: Star Trek Predicting the future since 1966.
And, as people point out every time it raises its head, Star Trek didn’t predict the future. It inspired the future. The reason why we have those technologies now is because the people who grew up with the show were inspired to make those things real, such as medical tricorders and hyposprays. (We’ve talked about that before.)
So, while this is all well and good, I gotta ask–where’s my space travel? Where’s my new worlds (and, depending on whose science you’re following, my new civilizations)? Where are my moon colonies, my outer space ship yards, my Mars trips? Where is my boldly going where no one has gone before?
As a child, I was obsessed with space travel. I went to space camp three times. I had memorized most of the astronauts and cosmonauts and what missions they had gone on. I knew technical specs for the space shuttle and could rattle them off at a moment’s notice.
(I also memorized the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, so I also could tell you what exactly it meant when the pattern buffers in the transporter went awry.)
And things were so promising. I love Apollo era space travel. In less than a decade we went from no space travel to a MAN ON THE MOON. Several men on the moon! We pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and I love reading about how we made it happen. And the shuttle program had so much promise. We were going to go to space ALL THE TIME in our amazing, reusable ships! We were going to do everything!
But then Challenger happened and it seems like everything’s gone downhill since then. Poor NASA has barely any budget, and they keep taking it away, even though it’s only, like, 1% of the national budget. And we keep talking about going back to the moon, or on to Mars or Europa or Titan, but nothing seems to be getting there.
(At least NASA’s working on the Warp Drive.)
And, of course interplanetary travel is harder than making flip-open communication devices or portable devices that can interface with your computer system, but I know a lot of what draws me to science fiction is the environment, the exploration, the potential danger, and to see how we react when confronted with new things. And I just wish we seemed to be making some forward progress. But instead it just feels like we’re sliding backwards.