How Lofty Are Dreams

moon over lake

© Ted Strutz

They enjoyed the view from the deck of the yacht just like the other families who were visiting the summer resort that week. Jim held his little granddaughter in his arms and they admired the moon together.

“Moon, Gampa! Moon!”

“That’s right, Danielle. It’s the Moon. Someday maybe you can live up there.”

“You’ll just confuse her, Dad.”

“Well maybe, son. But what about you, Landon?” He looked down at his eight-year-old grandson. “Would you like to live on the Moon someday?”

“I don’t know, Grandpa. People haven’t even walked on the Moon since 1972.”

“Glad to see they’re teaching that at school. That’s the year I graduated from High School.”

“C’mon, you two. It’s getting cold up here.”

Bubbe took the two-year-old in her arms and started down below decks with the little boy in tow.

“See you later, Grandpa…Dad,” the little boy called back.

After they’d gone, “Dad,” David complained, “He lives in enough of a fantasy world, especially since the divorce. Don’t encourage him.”

“Encourage him to go for a dream? If we didn’t do that, people wouldn’t accomplish anything.”

“He’s got to live in the real world, Dad.”

“In the real world, people visited the Moon several times between 1969 and 1972. When I was Landon’s age, I always thought we’d have a Moon Base by now. So did a lot of adults. Short-sightedness and the illusion that we had to choose between the War on Poverty and exploring our Solar System has kept us trapped in low Earth orbit for decades.”

“We’ve got a ton of robots on Mars and exploring the outer Solar System, Dad. If Landon wants to grow up to be an engineer, he can live out his dreams that way.”

“That’s not good enough, son. If people don’t strive for the next frontier, the next horizon, they stagnate. If we don’t reach for the stars, we’ll fall back into the dust, David.”

“You always wanted to walk on the Moon when you were a kid, didn’t you?”

“I was born too early in history, or so I thought. I figured my children would be the ones to carry humanity to the Moon and beyond. Now it looks like its my grandchildren’s heritage.”

“You hope.”

“I can dream, can’t I son?”

On Saturday, July 4, 2043 at 0643 EST, Danielle Esther Lyle and the crew of the Heritage One spacecraft became the first human beings to step foot on the surface of Mars.

“This one’s for you, Grandpa.”

This is a different take on the prompt which inspired this story and is substantially similar to a tale I wrote last September, but it’s one I think we need to tell again and again.

While it’s easy to dismiss the ambitions of people like Elon Musk, he’s one of the very few who are keeping the dream of a brighter future for humanity alive. The rest of us are using recent tragedies as bargaining chips to gain political points on social media.

When I was a kid and used to dream of Moon Bases and Mars Colonies, and then I did the math and figured out how old I’d be by the time the 21st century rolled around, I really did think I was born too soon. Now even my children won’t have the opportunity (if they had ever so chosen) to visit other worlds.

Maybe, maybe someday my grandchildren will finish living out the dream I had only begun when I was their age.

moon base musk

Artist’s conception of Elon Musk’s “Moon Base Alpha”.

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19 thoughts on “How Lofty Are Dreams

  1. The biggest problem that I perceive with interplanetary travel, at least within our solar system, is that the best comment which may be offered about other planets (and their moons) is: “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t wanna live there!”. On the other hand, I recall a cartoon from the 60s, in which an Amerind was looking up at the full moon with his grandson, wistfully musing: “Maybe white man all go to moon, leave the land for us”. [:)] But that is not the only expression of hope associated with space travel. Interestingly, a number of air corps, including the newly formed Royal Flying Corps in 1912, followed by the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces such as the RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF, the SAAF, as well as the Royal Indian Air Force until 1947, chose a motto: “Per ardua ad astra”, meaning: “Through struggle unto the stars”, or “Through adversity unto the stars”. Another variation of this is “Per aspera ad astra”, which some translate as: “Through hardship unto the stars”. It appears at other times as: “Ad Astra Per Aspera”, to be interpreted as: “Unto the Stars with Hope (i.e., aspiration)”, which appears as the motto of Starfleet in the StarTrek universe. And then there is Robert Browning’s observation: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”. Much recent technological development was driven by the needs of the US attempts to reach the moon; and we are still feeling its effects today in subsequent generations of that technology — some of it driven also by the technologies envisioned in the StarTrek series, such as “smart” cellular phones, tablet computers, remote sensors for medical and other purposes, and much more. I’m not sure which might be considered the greater impetus for the funding required for such development — real exploration, or the imaginary exploration that sprang up in the frustration resulting from a lack of real exploration.

    OBTW, the definition of “drabble” is: “a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length”. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.

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    • As you’ve suggested, a lot more than “Tang” came out of NASA’s manned space program, so from my point of view, the benefits are obvious. Of course, the same can be said for military applications which is something many people don’t like to think about.

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      • Ah, yes, the military (and police) applications…. I’m still looking forward to the development of an actual “phaser”, with its “stun” setting. A “Taser” is, perhaps, a step in that direction, but it is far too limiting. I believe there have been some experiments with acoustic pulses that show some promise, but I’ve not heard of any significant success, yet. But it would be extremely helpful in the apprehension of suspects, or crowd control, without causing any real harm, especially in cases of mistaken or misdirected firing. And a working force field for containment, together with its related deflector and shielding applications, wouldn’t be amiss, either.

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      • The force field would be good to protect spaceships and Mars colonies from radiation, but we also need some sort of artificial gravity plating to counter the harmful effects of microgravity on living organisms (hard to see the latter coming from military or police applications).

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      • I’m sure that too would be useful. I was merely thinking of terrestrial applications. Microgravity effects on living organisms during interplanetary transit are another matter, for which some have suggested centrifugal remediation solutions. The concern is less severe on planetary bodies with their own gravity, where the centrifugal solutions are unworkable. However, the “gravity plating” idea also has potential terrestrial uses, for apprehending suspects from some distance with a focused attractor beam. (You might not previously have recognized the connection between gravitic and “tractor beam” technologies.) But gravity is a force that has not yet been harnessed or produced artificially, despite its apparent orthogonal relation to the electric and magnetic field orientations. It appears to me that “phaser” technology might actually be closer to realization. “Force field” technology is likely just as far off as gravitic technology, particularly because I’ve never read any convincing suggestions about what sort of force might distribute itself in a planar field that acts to repel only local incursions into the field plane, or affect ordinary insulative or non-magnetic materials. Even the non-planar notion of a “force bubble” projected from and surrounding a point has not suggested the type of force that would respond thus. Now, mere protection from high-energy ionizing radiation in space might be done with a sufficiently powerful magnetic field surrounding a spacecraft shell, possibly using an electrically-charged “Faraday cage” effect. However, insulating the organisms inside the ship from the magnetic field could be difficult; and a magnetic field of such power could be just as deleterious as the radiation it is deflecting.

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  2. This one really tugged at my heartstrings. I’ve such a soft spot for stories where people beat the odds to learn new things and expand humanity’s reach into the rest of the universe, and adding the inspiration of the grandfather is icing on the cake.

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