Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Some rambling on space exploration

Something else to thank Doug Drexler's blogging in recent weeks for here.

By way of introduction: Drexler's been an award-winning makeup artist, scenic artist and now CGI designer/animator - please forgive me for not getting the titles precisely, Doug? - on shows from Star Trek: All the Modern TV Series from Next Generation to Enterprise through to the current edition of Battlestar Galactica and, soon enough, Caprica as well if I remember a'right.

(Galactica, to my mind constitutes one of those happy accidents of "hands across the border" work. But I digress...)

Anyway, he got this note from Mike Okuda passing along excerpts from a speech from Jeff Hanley, manager of Project Constellation at NASA. And that thread on the Drex Files that followed from that posting, along with a linkage to a JFK speech of no small note and import, got me thinking about space exploration. What it means to me personally. What it means to people in a lot of different places.

Including Canada.

We don't idolize our men and women of the Right Stuff up here as has been done south of the border. At least not yet. I'd love to see a docudrama on Marc Garneau and/or Roberta Bondar one of these years, and see it well done. No idea if it's ever going to happen, given the state of our industry, although I'm sure the likes of Denis McGrath, Alex Epstein, Will Dixon, and others across the membership of the Writers Guild of Canada would jump at the chance to script that sucker were it offered to any of them.

Those stories, when they get told - are another kind of economic spinoff of the exploration that NASA - and our own Canadian Space Agency, as well - are doing. They force the people who work in the cultural industries to try to achieve things that so rarely get done in the real world as it is today.

More to the point...this exploration is worth doing, and worth doing to the best of our respective abilities is beyond doubt for this Canadian. What frustrates me - as I suspect it does many people elsewhere in more than a few nations - is that so many still have the doubts.

In my less charitable moments, I tend to call them another word: fears. Fear of change, and the consequences that it brings.

Given the state of the planetary economy right now, I can see how a lot of us can - do - rationalize the fears. Justify them. Use them to argue for an end to change. Or at least for a slowing down of it to a pace they can more easily match. I've been catching myself preparing similar arguments about some of the things now in place in my current day-job.

No, I won't be sharing the details of that particular issue. They don't really matter all that much, and they add little more than another chunk of noise at a time when we really need more and clearer signal.

We need to do more of that trailblazing that Hanley spoke of, and Kennedy before him, and Roddenberry and his colleagues and heirs in between and since. We need to do this both in concert with our neighbours near and far across this world, and we need to do it on our own as well.

This exploration can and must be done alongside everything else we need to do right now to remedy our economic and ecological woes...and maybe a few of our cultural woes as well.

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