Galileo held as opinion what today is known as fact. The Ptolemaic theory, that the Earth was the “central and principal object in the universe, about which all celestial objects orbited”, was incorrect. He was condemned for this by the Catholic Church; no small thing in 1633. It took bravery and imagination to articulate a vision of something never before considered possible.
Fundamentally, advances in space technology can be linked to intrinsic human curiosity and perseverance. Knowing our beginning and our end, we must have something to work towards in the middle. George Mallory, the British mountaineer determined to climb Mount Everest, is famously quoted as saying the reason he wanted to was “Because it’s there.” The simple example of evolutionary biology’s compulsion to reach. And naysayers aside, it has always been visionaries, those who stretch beyond the cultural influence of the present moment, who lay the foundation for momentous progress.
As Mary-Jo Dionne puts it:
“On one side are those who believe space travel is difficult work, but who go for it anyway. On the other are those who believe caring for a goldfish is, and who don’t go after much of anything. Where we choose to seed ourselves on the spectrum of what’s possible is what will ultimately define the size of our lives.”
While the proverbial dust has settled around the first footprint on the moon, and we take that momentous event for granted, it is important to remember what a staggering feat of technology, imagination and gumption, over centuries, brought us to that point.
The history of space exploration software stretches back over centuries. The earliest record of humanity interpreting space as a place humans could ‘go’ is from before 2000 BC. From the first known space fiction of 50 Greek athletes travelling to the moon on a “violent whirlwind” in 165 AD, to the Russian’s first launch into orbit with Sputnik on October 4, 1957, over a thousand years passed. Advances in rocket technology, solidified by William Congreve in the early 1800s, gave way to story-telling by Jules Verne; a science fiction grounded in real data, that then inspired scientists who took extraordinary leaps. Three men in different parts of the world who came to the same conclusion about the potential of rocketry to propel a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
The journey from sporadic imagination to separate advances is now centralized in fields of space exploration. Visionary technology plays a vital role in momentum, and the science of the moment is Artificial Intelligence. From national space organizations such as NASA (USA) and CNSA (China) to private endeavors such as the infamous SpaceX and Boeing, the field is seeing a resurgence of interest and investment, following failure and advancement.