In early 1960s America, it was perfectly reasonable to imagine a world a century later with flying cars and permanent human space habitats. When Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn were orbiting Earth, you could forgive writers for their imaginations. The show was conceived during a period when people were breathtakingly optimistic about emerging technologies. But 2022 being the year of George Jetson’s “birth” is a funny yet startling reminder that such a future never came true. The cartoons many of us watched growing up with big dreams of the future have remained just that — cartoons and dreams. And people who were born after Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt took humanity’s last steps on the Moon are now old enough to have grandchildren.
But despite all this, 2022 may actually go down in the history books as the year we finally brought this long delay to an end. With the recent success of Artemis 1 — NASA’s test of the Space Launch System rocket topped by an Orion capsule, which splashed down on December 11 after a successful trip around the Moon — humanity’s return to our nearest neighbor appears to be imminent.
And for good reason: A report on the “State of the Space Industrial Base” released in August predicted that China would overtake the United States “as the dominant global space power economically, diplomatically and militarily by 2045, if not earlier.” There are potentially trillions of dollars of resources on the Moon, on asteroids, and on other celestial bodies. As with space research and development in the past, there will be spinoffs that will improve life on Earth. And space is the next frontier in the long story of human exploration.
After a fifty-year delay, we may at last be on the verge of fulfilling this dream.Alex Dubin
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