Space Races and Phalic Wars: some thoughts on the past and future of humanity

Our Forgotten Nobility; or why humans do anything.

Humanity achieved its greatest feat---reaching out beyond the confines of our tiny planet and into the void between---because of a pissing contest. The first artificial satellite to breach our atmosphere was Russia's Sputnik. This humble little ball with a few antenna on it like whiskers ushered in a new age of human thought, reasoning and indeed evolution. But the circumstances around this monumental event in the history of the human race were for the most part rather common for our species.

Imagine; there are two mad men with all the wealth and power of the world at their fingertips. One is from the east and one from the west. They stare each other down, scowling and mean as men called  spies kill each other in the background. There is going to be a war. The world is sure of that. They just don't know when. They stare and gesticulate and act high and mighty, calling each other horrible names like children. Then one of them has an idea. And idea which could save the world from total devastation. He unzips his pants, whips out his dick, flops it flaccid on the desk between them and says "Mine is, uhhhhh, bigger than yours!" The other man, enraged by this, whips his own dick out and throws it on the desk. It is quite impressive, but slightly less free than his opponent's. "Mine is much bigger than yours!" he shouts and starts to bang his shoe on the desktop---narrowly missing himself in the process.

And thus began the space race. Only the dicks were rockets the size of buildings and the desk was the entire world. After Sputnik it was like a play by play.

The Russians are ahead by one satellite, an amazing marvel to behold, indeed. Oh! But the Americans come in swinging claiming it was a hoax and when that doesn't work decides to use it in their propaganda campaign. Smart move on uncle Sam's part! But wait, the Russians just launched Vostok 1 and with it Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, the first human being in space! My god what great creatures are we. And, and oh my god! Two years later they just sent up a woman! That's right folks, Valentina Tereshkova herself aboard Vostok 6. My god what a grand time to be alive. But wait six years after that American beats them all by landing three human beings on the surface of the moon. Seeing this, the Russians do the same as the Americans had been doing and claimed it was fake, that it had been filmed somewhere in California---A rumor which persists today.

(I'm positive I left things out, you will forgive, I am not a historian.) And so humanity took its first teetering steps in the cosmos, simply because two megalomaniacs wanted to know whose country was the best---whose dick was bigger. As all great advances in history have been made. From flight, to cars, to the internet to the wheel; they were all made for war or to impress or to feel superior or to be superior. And that is humanity really. All we want is to feel like the alpha monkey with our arms outstretched, our chests extended. We must see ourselves or those whom we follow as champions or else what is the point of following them in the first place?

In the end it was America who had won the right of champion and after we won that little prize we kept going back to the moon as if it were ours, we played around in space for a while, helped build an orbital space station, had an innovative way of supplying that station using a space shuttle. But in the end America moved on. Moved on to war, to hatred, to politics and all those blinding little things that make us forget what gods we truly are in this world.

We forgot about the promise of the future, we did not want to think about going to new places where no human feet has ever been. We want to look at our phones and complain about the world and the president and the UN and save the whales and get news phones and watch new TV and read new books by James Patterson or just reread a series of books meant for children and claim it is literature because you want to still enjoy it as an adult.

We want to complain about our lives and act as if they are the end all be all of existence. We have become inundated with the idea of present, losing sight of the past and only ever thinking about the future as some bleak, horrible dystopia where a fat orange president rules with an iron fist. We want to be afraid of the world and everything in it but not yet so afraid that we would take a risk. We do not "do this because it is easy but because it is hard," as JFK would have said; we do things because they are easy and we do want to do anything at all.

So there is our past, as glorious and ridiculous as it should be. Now let us find the way to our future.

Your Stellar Destiny; or What the fuck are you doing just sitting there?

The Space Age. Space Age technology, the Age of Space Travel, these all conjure up images of old clunky rockets, brave men with tough chins and tougher military records and great quotes to endlessly fill newspapers and articles and stories and memories. These all bring up memories of the past. The past, forever the past when thinking about space travel.

Should we land on Mars? Why, we already sent several rovers there, what's the point of sending a maned mission? It's too risky.

Okay, should we send out some people back to the moon, maybe set up an orbital and surface station? What, no! We've already been to the moon, thirteen times, as a matter of fact. That's done don't worry about it!

Well should we maybe send a mission to Venus or maybe even Jupiter? I know it would be a long, long trip but it's not as if humanity hasn't had long, confining trips before. Imagine what we'd learn. What! We already did that with the Cassini and Voyager missions. Let's not talk about that, it's ridiculous.

When I was young, and I'm willing to bet when you were young too, you looked up at the stars and thought, "I want to go there," or "what would it be like to go there?" or "is there anyone out there?" but, as I grew older I did not lose that dream. I still want to go the stars, to see the Earth from outside it. But no one else I know thinks that way. The world destroys them, robs them of what they are and what it is they believe in. I've seen more times than I can count. But, guys, we should really talk about those old pipe dreams. Because it's those stupid fantasies that, in one way or another, keep us sane and moving on toward a future that is not cold and sterile, but alive with filth and the beauty of humanity in the stars.

For all of human existence the idea of the fantasy has been the most compelling narrative in the human mind. The first piece of writing ever found was the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story about a demigod who fights monsters and scorpion people to bring his lost friend back to life. Fantasy. From then there were the Egyptian myths, the Greek, the Medieval period was rife with myth and story, whether it be the manifold saints and their great deeds or those of mythic kings ling Arthur and Prestor John.

Fantasy has always explained and illuminated the human condition. It gave us something to look forward to, something to take pride in and something to try to become. When we come closer and closer to the modern era, a time of such technological advancements, we come to see fantasy slowly be replaced. Never truly successful, and so some degree fantasy got stronger especially after the Great War. People like Jules Verne and H. G. Wells and even Edgar Allen Poe, gave to the world a new look, a look into the way humanity might become. Not by the aide of some supernatural force or the favor of wizard or god they must appease; but as humans with exceptional skill and mastery of their art. This was the new fantasy. The new wave of humanist thought that took over the minds of so many children and started a genre we still practice today. Sometimes it's called speculative fiction, sometimes it's called science fiction. They all mean the same thing; hope.

Science fiction (we'll call it that because it's the simplest) is the only completely hopeful fiction. By that I mean, if you read a science fiction story, it tells you "there will be a tomorrow. This will happen tomorrow. We might be living like rats, we might retches but there will be a tomorrow." And in a world where there seems to be nothing but now, nothing but the drudge and the tube to keep you company, you start to realize what a good thing thinking about tomorrow can be. Science fiction does not predict the future, science fiction becomes the future. The dreams that were captured on these women and men's pages, that were taken and made flesh with ink or pixel, become the dreams of those who read them. For centuries men have looked to the red planet and wondered what could be out there. H. G. Wells said there could be life out there, but that dosen't mean it is friendly. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury saw it as a wonderful, if lonely place that was foreign and strange. A man named Heinlein had a dream of men walking upon the moon. He was not the first to have such a dream, nor was he the first to write about it, but his dream went on and on and soon it became reality.

Communication over vast distances, a fantasy. Men flying through the air like birds, a fantasy. Men traveling at hundreds of miles an hour simply to get to work, a fantasy. All these amazing inventions that have propelled life into so many unseen directions were originally thoughts, ideas, daydreams, fantasies. Thoughts have weight and value to them. Some are more important than others. Some fantasies are more real, or become more real than others. What's going on now is a realization of many of those oldest and dearest thoughts of mankind. He did it in the sixties, we will do it again today.

I watched many of the SpaceX launches and they took my breath away in the way that seeing those Apollo rockets scream out toward the moon did. These people are brave, daring men and women who are not satisfied waiting for someone to go to the stars for them. They don't want to see it on TV and dream and hope about what it would be like in the future when everything is nice and utopian; they want to make that utopia. They don't want to read about great discoveries, they want to Chang Ho and Columbus (I suppose) and found this new age of exploration here, today. These people I greatly admire because they have seen and heard. The word has reached them from the mountaintops and from the valleys! They have shared the dreams of great men of letters and made of them reality.

They are the future. They and the Mars Generation movement, and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, I believe it's called? All these are the stepping stones on which your new world will be founded. And I am glad to be a part of these days of wonder. These days so full of life and potential that has been raised from a long slothful absence.

So tell me, what is it that you are doing in this new age of exploration to come? Would you back into a ship and float away to the red planet of our dreams if given the chance? Would you visit the moon, see what the Earth is like from its surface? What about a trip to Venus? It would be long and hard, but if man would not do it, no one would. Humanity needs to explore, it is what drove us out of Africa in the first place those aeons ago. It is what made the greatest sailors in the world, the Polynesians, discover almost every rock in the Pacific ocean. It's what caused me to look east, or west and wonder what lay over that long horizon. Humanity has been stagnant for many years now. Listing away to our own idiotic ways. We need an undiscovered country to find and explore. And what else is the to explore but the universe itself?

Go forth, dreamers and doers. You are invaluable to the cause of humanity. Was that a little much, you think?


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