Sunday, August 18

Confessions of a Space Nerd - Even before an epic childhood battle with my cousins (they wanted to watch that lame Star Trek when the tres-cool Space: 1999 was on), I was an avid fan of the space program. In high school, my senior speech, delivered a year after Challenger, argued in favor of expanded human exploration of the cosmos. In college I belonged to the Princeton Planetary Society (whose logo is still derived from my design) and subscribed to Aviation Week & Space Technology. I even worked one summer at NASA, and my undergraduate thesis was on the domestic politics of space travel. Somewhere along the line, though, I realized that most space-related careers involve life as a cog inside the world of giant government contractors and aging bureaucracies that saw their heyday under Kennedy and Johnson. Besides losing the natural impetus of Cold War rivalries, the Internet came along and people decided the web, not space, was where it was at. I got a real job, and space faded to just one of many subjects of occasional interest.

All that is background for why I reacted wistfully to this Times article which notes that 2001 was the slowest year for space launches since 1962 (the year after Shepard and Glenn made their Mercury flights). Not exactly the brilliant future envisioned in Kubrick's revolutionary space opera. I guess if I had followed my dreams, instead of the stars I might be heading for the unemployment office these days. In any case, that reservation at the Hilton will just have to wait a bit longer.