Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rocket Man

This is how I got here from there.

"There" was at work this morning, and for some reason, we started talking about what we read when we were kids. Someone said that they loved reading non-fiction as a kid, and I mentioned that I did, too. Then I mentioned Kon-Tiki, which was a seminal book when I was nine, and he said that he had read it as a kid, too.

Then he said, "What must it have been like to be those people who actually took the original voyage?"

"I can't imagine," I said. "What would it feel like, sailing toward a horizon that was nothing but the sea?"

Then I thought of one thing: space.

That's how I got here. How long will it be before someone builds a raft and sets sail in space?

Bill Gates has over fifty billion dollars. What if Richard Garriott had fifty billion dollars? If he wanted to, would that be enough money to build a rocket to get him into space, and a self-sustaining environment in which he could live? Would he want to sail away and never come back?

Richard, would you want to go?

Think about it. He could be the first person in human history to fly beyond the moon. He could see the rings of Saturn--in person--in less than five years.

No matter what happened in our future, he would forever be the first. A thousand years from now, people would remember his name.

Someday, someone will do this. The technology of space, like the technology of everything else, will become more democratized over time. It will be more powerful, more efficient, less expensive. It will become possible, if it isn't possible already. And when it is possible, it is only a matter of time before it becomes real.

What will it feel like? What would it be like to be both the most famous and the loneliest man in the universe? What would it be like to be the only man to leave Earth and, on purpose, never come back?

He would keep in touch with us, of course, for as long as he could, but what would he say? At what point would he have seen so many things we couldn't possibly understand that he was no longer one of us?

Maybe he would just say "I've seen things you wouldn't believe."

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