Thursday, May 12, 2005

 

Rocketship

Considering the time I've spent the last few weeks looking at this, this and this, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about rockets lately.

Paragaea, which seems on track to be completed by the end of this month, opens with the launch of the ill-fated Vostok 7 in 1964, and Mark Wade's Astronautica site was an invaluable resource in checking my facts about the Soviet cosmonaut program of that era. Winchell Chung's excellent Atomic Rocket site I found quite by accident last week, searching for something else entirely. And I've David Pescovitz of Boing Boing to thank for the link to the children's space art site this morning. Folded into this string of space-related synchronicities are some hypothetical discussions I've been having about a space opera I might be doing sometime down the line.

I was obsessed with spacecraft as a kid. I was part of that generation that come along directly after the moonlanding, the first to come of age in a time when it could be taken as a given that man had conquered space, and would go on conquering more and more of it as time went on. I remembering watching the first shuttle being launched, and thinking, "Well, this is it. That thing looks like a passenger liner to me, so it's only a matter of time before we're all able to go up there. Right?" I was convinced that by the time I was grown up, we'd have manned missions to Mars, and space tourism would be an accepted fact of modern life. I was perhaps more than a little naive, but what the hell? I was just a kid.

Looking at all of this great material about spacecraft, I can't help but get nostalgic about a future that never happened. Perhaps, out in the exfoliating multiversal worlds of the Myriad, there's a 34-year-old Chris Roberson currently on layover at a space station at L7, on his way to the Mars colony. Who knows, maybe he's writing an alternate history about a world where the space program never went further than the moon, and man didn't even return to the lunar surface after the last of the Apollo missions. But what fun would that be?

I can't help but be reminded of Billy Bragg's "The Space Race is Over," from William Bloke. The lyrics (copyright © Billy Bragg, naturally, and found here) are:

When I was young I told my mum
I'm going to walk on the Moon someday
Armstrong and Aldrin spoke to me
From Houston and Cape Kennedy
And I watched the Eagle landing
On a night when the Moon was full
And as it tugged at the tides, I knew deep inside
I too could feel its pull

I lay in my bed and dreamed I walked
On the Sea of Tranquillity
I knew that someday soon we'd all sail to the moon
On the high tide of technology
But the dreams have all been taken
And the window seats taken too
And 2001 has almost come and gone
What am I supposed to do?

Now that the space race is over
It's been and it's gone and I'll never get to the moon
Because the space race is over
And I can't help but feel we've all grown up too soon

Now my dreams have all been shattered
And my wings are tattered too
And I can still fly but not half as high
As once I wanted to

Now that the space race is over
It's been and it's gone and I'll never get to the moon
Because the space race is over
And I can't help but feel we've all grown up too soon

My son and I stand beneath the great night sky
And gaze up in wonder
I tell him the tale of Apollo And he says
"Why did they ever go?"
It may look like some empty gesture
To go all that way just to come back
But don't offer me a place out in cyberspace
Cos where in the hell's that at?

Now that the space race is over
It's been and it's gone and I'll never get out of my room
Because the space race is over
And I can't help but feel we're all just going nowhere

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