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Flashback Friday to 1963 when Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova visited United Nations Headquarters in NYC, two years after Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to make a space flight.

Friday’s Human Space Flight Day celebrates the beginning of the space era for mankind. Today, space science and technology contribute to achieving the Global Goals and help maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.

đź“·: UN Photo

I have two recommendations related to this topic.

The first is a great book. I recently read If the Sun Dies by Oriana Fallaci, a report novel about the hopeful years of the space race leading up to the Moon landing. I was captivated by the author’s outspoken and witty storytelling and enjoyed the book so much. (This was actually the first book of hers I read, but I already have two others lined up on my shelf.)

She interviewed all the first generation astronauts and people around them, and basically had a general admission to most NASA sites in the 60s. Besides the interesting details of the preparations for the big mission and the psychology behind the uncertainties of being able to fly one day or not, there is a darker side of the story. The book paints a rather daunting picture of the future taken over by the space race and the astronautical novelties destroying everything that’s natural in the world. The title itself is from the author’s conversation with renowned fantasy writer Ray Bradbury, who lays down his idea that space research is actually preparation for the future. If the Sun dies, and indeed, if the Earth dies, we will have to have alternatives.

While you contemplate that, my second recommendation is Episode 5.13 of The West Wing Weekly (and of course The West Wing). I listened to (and rewatched) this at the time when I started the book a few weeks ago. In this particular episode of the series (titled The Warfare of Genghis Khan) one of the plotlines was about financing space research. There were some well-based arguments against it questioning what NASA put on the table since the late 60s. Spoiler alert: there is a schmaltzy reasoning why it is a quest still worth undertaking. This actually wasn’t the first time The West Wing dealt with space travel in such a romanticized way. Like, of course we’re going to Mars, because it’s what’s next (uhm, but it’s what’s next for 60 years now…)  One of the guests of this podcast episode was a NASA analyst who reminded us, that it’s not like they cannot show anything for their money, they achieved some pretty remarkable things in the meantime, in terms of space research and also medical and scientific research. After yesterday’s news about the black hole photo, who can argue with that?

But then, following last week’s fail about the female astronauts’ suits I guess this was much needed good news from NASA before the International Day of Human Space Flight. Also, Mars landing is predicted for 2033, and the next Moon landing for 2024.  

I am just as excited about the new discoveries as anyone else, but I can also somewhat agree with the argument that the pace is not what we’ve expected. Although I was born a bit later, just as Oriana Fallaci writes, I remember from my childhood all the things they (opinion leaders, the media) envisioned regarding what the world will be like in just a few decades. We were told for example that we were going to be able to own land on the Moon and thus inhabit other planets very soon. How on Earth (pun intended) could we do that when humans can’t even exist out there? Sure we will need some other planet to inhabit when we destroy this one (note the definitive tense I use), but as things stand now, there are none with the conditions humans need. But that’s another topic, I guess, let’s just celebrate the possibility of Human Space Flight today!

What do you think about space research? Are we expecting too much when indeed there are great achievements to celebrate? Let me know clicking on the Comments line below.

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