Bike riding is a source of civic pride around here and I occasionally indulge myself. Tonight was a beautiful summer evening complete with a dazzling sunset laced with contrails.
I know, I’ve heard the conspiracy nuts. However, for those of us who have a basic understanding of the world as it really is, contrails no threat but instead a potent of the scientific wonder of our age. Think of it, for thousands of years, the only thing mankind could see in the sky were what nature had put there. Then we invented the kite, hot air balloon, prop plane and now jet aircraft that soar above the highest flying birds that mother nature can create.
When I was a kid I figured I’d be seeing spaceships by now but, so far, no such luck.
Spaceships, you ask? Yes, honest to gosh spaceships. You see, I’m a child of the 1970s. My grandfather was born in a time when the Wright Brothers were mere bicycle repairmen, and I was born before anyone walked on the moon. Think about it, just three generations separating Kitty Hawk to “the Eagle has landed” and all alive at the same time.
As I science fiction writer I am sometimes asked where I get my ideas. Well, lots of places but chiefly in the fantasies of a ten-year-old kid whose mother bought him a book called Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD. It was a picture book featuring some of the great SF artists of the day. The pictures were of spaceships linked by the fiction that this was a catalog of ships that sailed the planets. I still have the book and page seven has an amusing “historical” timeline,
In 2004 the first space freighter enters service.
In 2015 commercial passenger service to Mars begins.
In 2041 the first orbital industrial center off Jupiter is completed.
…and so on.
You see, a mere forty years ago, tomorrow consisted not of budget cuts to NASA and the denial of scientific facts like evolution and climate change by our leaders. With the moon landing fresh in out memory and the space shuttle under construction such idiocy had no traction. In the 1970s, we Americans believed in science. And we believed that, very soon, that science would take us to the stars in fabulous ships that once only existed in our imaginations.
I still believe in the hope that stems from scientific advancement. From the start, we learned from out kites and our hot air balloons. We are now learning from the few rockets that NASA can afford and an international space station that is the pride of the world. I do not believe that the petty men of small vision will forever succeed in suppressing human progress. Our nature as human beings is to grow and to seek and that nature cannot be denied forever.
So perhaps it is not unreasonable, that someday before my time is up, I will ride my bike…and look up to see spaceships zooming above the contrails.