I am going to the goddamn Moon. I don't care how, and I'm flexible on when, but I've had it with this stupid not-a-future. When did we lose our collective sense of wonder and imagination? Look at absolutely any vision of the future put down prior to the '70s. 2001 had commonplace, commercialized space flight by 2001; we didn't even begin to make tentative explorations into the field until 2005, and four years later it's still a glorified boat tour for the insanely wealthy. And (hyper-evolved space babies aside) 2001 is one of the more restrained and realistic fictional futures! Damn near any speculative fiction put to paper between the 1890s and the 1970s kicks our collective ass six ways from Sunday when it comes to anything.
Look, I know that we can't just magic up technological advancements and societal developments out of nowhere, but we're not even trying any more. NASA used to talk about a manned Mars mission like it was a given, like they were actually planning one. Then somewhere along the line, all the geniuses who figured out how to get people to the Moon and back, did so successfully on multiple occasions, and during one failed attempt figured out a rescue so incredibly awesome that it actually got Hollywood to make a good movie about real-life space exploration remembered that they were adults, dammit, and what were they even doing talking about this kid stuff? All of a sudden it was all about the research, and of course they could do that with robots. And they did, and it's not that that wasn't cool, but if they could map the planets with robot proves, suddenly they didn't care about sending people there any more. Talk of a manned Mars mission became more of an "at some point in the next twenty years" thing, then an "at some point in the next twenty years" thing, and now it's just a "huh, yeah, maybe someday, whenever" thing. Human beings have never travelled beyond the Moon's orbit. Even by the comparatively miniscule standards of our solar system, we've never stepped off the front porch.
And it's not just space travel, either. There's all kinds of things that we've at best got boring, watered-down versions of, and only in very recent years. How damn long did it take us to get the Kindle, for God's sake? A proprietary device that forces you to get all your content from one central provider, who can delete it at will whenever they feel like it, but it's the best thing we've got for the "data pad"-type gadgets all the cool futures had - and because the people who want this kind of stuff are willing to settle for less, it's probably going to be the best we've got for quite a while. It's not that it couldn't be better, it's that the only people who still care about advancements more abstract than "reheatable pizza that isn't shit" are so starved for advancement that they'll buy just about any damn thing if it takes them a little closer to what they were promised years ago. There's a whole industry of tech toys designed for these kind of people, and the rest of the world? The rest of the world doesn't care.
It wasn't always that way. Back in the '50s, the whole of America was looking forward to the days when technology would free us of the mundane and allow us to achieve the fantastic. Kids played astronaut with plastic robots, "space-age" was used as an adjective without irony, and even if the cars didn't fly, they looked like rocket ships. Star Trek was a delight to the masses, not a self-indulgent niche market eating its own tail. Even if it was often in a small-minded, Jetsons kind of way, where the limits of imagination reached tended to boil down to Baby Boom upper-middle-class life with the automatic appliances doing the dirty work, people believed in it. Now? Who gives a damn? We have the wall-sized TVs that people used to fantasize about, and who cares about the rest? American Idol is on.
We are a nation that have lost our dreams. Someone finally sat us down and told us that Santa Claus wasn't real, all the mountains have been climbed, and we'd be better off just settling for less and getting a decent job like everyone else. If you start talking about space exploration, people will talk back about how we should solve our problems down here before bothering with that stuff. The hell with that! Did world problems stop us from getting to the Moon? That was 1969! We were in the middle of cultural turmoil and the goddamn Vietnam War! Our space program was getting its start when we were the closest we have ever been to nuclear Armageddon! If we let our other problems stop us from bringing about the future, we never will.
Thankfully, not all hope is lost. There are a few people who still care about this kind of stuff. Private companies are beginning to get into manned spaceflight, the folks at Apple are somehow managing to make good money selling solid, useful futurist technology despite their inexplicable compulsion to price it restrictively high and do their damnedest to exercise absolute control over every aspect of it, Rocket Girls has proved to me that at least someone still feels a sense of awe and wonder about space exploration, and Star Trek is once again something that normal people can enjoy watching without having to know three seasons' worth of backstory (but don't tell the fanboys, you'll get nerd-raged to death.) We might finally be getting the ulcerous über-cynical dystopianism we've been stuck with since the '80s evacuated from our collective colon. It won't make much of a difference if we don't start caring about the future again, but at least we're stepping back towards the right track.
So until then...I'll see you on the dark side of the Moon, kids.