One Hundred Years From Now

I just finished reading The Hazards of Space Travel: A Tourist’s Guide. Since there have now been five space tourists and there will be many more in (probably) a few years, a book describing what you need to look out for while visiting Io doesn’t seem as science fictiony as it would have a few years ago.

This is not a review (go here for that). I did want to talk though about an assumption the book makes that the final space frontiers for this century will be the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter. Even getting out that far seems a bit far fetched today, but in just twelve years in the 20th century we went from launching a small ball into orbit to sending people to the moon. What if we use that pace as a base for predicting the future instead of the more leisurely pace of the space program in the last 40 years?

Although we most likely won’t get anyone to Mars until the 2030s, people could have landed on Mars back in the early 1980s if we had decided to do that. After the first moon landing, NASA pitched a Mars expedition to the White House based on an evolution of the Apollo infrastructure. At that rate, sending people to Saturn by 2001 seems reasonable (that was the destination in the book 2001: A Space Odyssey but not the movie since apparently the prop people couldn’t make rings that looked convincing on film).

So this is all to say that I don’t think the Jovian moons will be the limit of things by the end of the 21st century. Why not assume that there will already by tourists heading toward a small rocky planet orbiting a nearby star in a huge ship that uses some bizarre technology we couldn’t even guess at today? Check back in 93 years and we’ll see where we are.

By the way, I still haven’t finished the book about Rome. I only have about 45 pages left and I’m not going to start reading something else until that is done, so I’ll post about that soon.

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