"NASA, as best as I can judge, is a force of nature like none other." Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2010.
On November 20th 1998, the first components of the International Space Station were launched, beginning the mission that continues to this day. This was the last time that many of us were excited about the exploration of frontiers beyond our grasp. As Dr. Tyson so eloquently said: "We stopped dreaming."
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. After succumbing to the eventual fact that I would never harness the intelligence to do such a job, becoming a journalist instead (go figure), it's fascinating to see just how much the general consensus of thinking about "today's economic problems" has crippled human space exploration. It infuriates me that this channel of mapping our future has been halted abruptly because of some misguided priorities of this, the early 21st century.
Don't get me wrong, we're seeing innovation and discovery in the recent Mars Rover program; but in the grand scheme of NASA's funding, it always feels as if we can do more to push the boundaries. As if taking away the manned program removes a typical trait, the human nature to gain knowledge, and stops us dreaming about tomorrow.
Who would have thought it would be an energy drinks company that would put things in motion? This is not me saying Felix Baumgartner's freefall from the edge of space is the answer to healing this entire situation. But what it is, is a catalyst.
Admit it, you felt it just as I did, watching the breaking of new world records and the successful beginning of a whole new concept of bailing out of space craft (which will take many years of research to eventually achieve beyond this). That tense-yet-optimistic sensation of pure inspiration. It's the same feeling you (and I as an extension) felt while watching the first batch of ISS parts blast off in '98. It's the one feeling that will propel us forward as a planet that was once great; but got lost within its own problems.
Pure, unadulterated curiosity.
This is exactly what the world has needed since the last burst of excitement 14 years ago (or the one before that in 1969). And judging by the fact that over eight million people tuned in to watch it live, that's a lot of the general public who haven't felt curious for a long time.
I'm not saying that it's going to be a short path to brighter times. It may happen generations beyond our lifespans; but this is the beginning of us slowly looking to the skies with question and the will to explore. Putting our metaphorical foot in the door to the galaxies. Reigniting the spark of curiosity.
So I ask a question of you, dear reader, like the aforementioned astrophysicist has asked millions before. How much would you pay for the universe?
'Newspeak' is a weekly column written by the Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. It is also the scarily ambiguous language used in Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four.' No real reason for this coincidence, so don't assume the worst of said writing and language ability based upon this choice of name.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.