I watched the original Star Trek series when it first came on. Oh I can't say I watched it every week. I was 4-6 years old and to use the Star Trek lingo, I didn't have the com (I wasn't in charge of which channels we watched- we had no remote). As I grew older, I did watch the original series in re-runs. This was not hard. Back then, we lived in a two channel universe. There was not much choice on television. I guess you would call me a Star Trek fan as opposed to a Star Trek FAN. I enjoyed the show but unlike some folks I was never obsessed with the show. I would never describe myself as a Trekkie but I always found the show entertaining.
During the opening credits of the show, Captain Kirk had a monologue about the USS Enterprise's mission. It was to boldly go where no man has gone before. It is to that point that I would like to reflect this week.
William Shatner played James Kirk. Shatner was a Montreal born actor who had previously gained fame from an episode of the Twilight Zone where he played a nervous passenger on a plane. Shatner has gone on to star in a couple of television series. He has also been in some movies and has been a spokesperson for a travel booking company. Thanks to comic cons and fan clubs, I would say that at the very least, he is as popular today as he was in the '60's. Shatner is now 90 years old.
Today Shatner was to have blasted off into space aboard a rocket owned by Elon Musk. Today's launch was delayed by weather but they hope to launch tomorrow. This is definitely a public relations coup for Musk. If successful, just imagine the headlines, "On a Musk rocket, we helped Kirk go where he had not gone before." If something goes wrong though, as has happened with other space craft in the past 60 years, it will be a sad day for millions of fans.
Over the past 60 years, we have learned much through our journeys into space. Spacecraft have whizzed by the other planets in our solar system. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. New inventions from the space industry have become part of our lives (the digital watch for instance). Artificial satellites have made global communications possible and have given us tools like GPS in our cars. The science developed for the space agencies has changed our lives.
Space tourism is different though. Tourists who can pay a big fee or be a walking advertisement go up into space. The object of such travel is not to expand the world's knowledge base. Rather it is just to show that billionaires can build rocket ships and those with wealth or connections can have a new experience. Nothing is really gained for the world by these trips. Space tourism is just a way to show that those who have a lot of money can pay designers oodles of money in order to built a ship. This ship will take the wealthy and privileged few on a trip. After the trip, those few will be able to say, "I have been to space and you haven't." It almost feels that these space tourists today are like the big game hunters of yesteryear. Instead of a mounted rhino's head, who knows what trinkets these new tourists will bring home.
I am not jealous of these space tourists. I am quite happy for the likes of Shatner to live out their dreams. But millions of dollars spent on an 11 minute thrill seem exorbitant. How many hungry mouths could be fed? How many families without shelter could take a bit of Musk money and find shelter? How much Musk money could be devoted to the actual space program where our knowledge might grow some more? Why should the privileged few get such an experience when poverty rates are so high? It does not seem just. Blessings