Boldly going

The race to be the first private person to travel into space just came a lot closer as this privately constructed spaceship proved by soaring to an altitude of 64KM. Will we be getting day trips to the Moon within our lifetime? Well, I, along with all the other SF geeks from my era were promised abck in the 70s that we would have all that by now, so I’ll take it with a pinch of salt while wishing them good luck. I suspect if and when it does become available for us to take commericial flights into space for ordinary folk it will only ever be the rich who can afford it, which is a great shame, since some of us have been dreaming of it since first picking up an Arthur C Clarke book, or watching the original Star Trek or the late and sorely missed (he’d have given Bush such a drubbing for his debasement of science to support his politics) Carl Sagan presenting us with Cosmos (remember that Vangelis music?).

A more recent example would be the Planets series on BBC, which sometimes veered to the lightweight on the commentary front but the graphics, some real images from probes and satellites, others CGI, were always stunning. Which brings us nicely to the Cassini probe which has just returned some fine new images of the ringed planet, Saturn. Ken MacLeod’s Cassini Division in living imagery. How wonderful it would be though to see all of this with your own eyes and not second-hand through a probe. Could you imagine looking out of a window to see Saturn filling the sky before you? The spokes and bands of the rings turning with slow majesty, the ice particles amongst the drifting rocks glittering in the night, illuminated by a distant sun, looking like a Cartier diamond necklace on an elegant lady’s bare neck.