July, 1969. Space Cadet JimmieJoe was 12 years old (going on 13!) and Apollo 11 had just landed on the Moon. As he watched Armstrong and Aldrin bounce across the surface in grainy black and white, a love of science, science fiction, and space exploration was nurtured into a lifelong fascination. Today, SpaceCadet JimmieJoe reminds GrownUp JimmieJoe how lucky he is, every chance he gets. How is he lucky? He gets to live in the future.
So far in the future, to SpaceCadet JimmieJoe, that there’s an unmanned robot supply ship delivering goods to a space station! And GrownUp JimmieJoe is watching it live, on a laptop computer that has more computing power all by itself, than NASA had when Armstrong and Aldrin (and let’s not forget Mitchell, alone in the Command module) went to the Moon.
Not only is GrownUp JimmieJoe living in the future, he’s so far up there that the robot ship isn’t even a NASA vessel at all, but rather a privately owned delivery truck, paid to bring supplies up to the station! All those sci-fi stories about space-jockeys for hire suddenly seem much more real than they did to the SpaceCadet. (Along with the novelty of a private space truck service, is the very futuristic-feeling fun of typing this blog entry on one laptop computer, while watching the berthing of the Dragon vessel to the International Space Station live on another.)
SpaceCadet, living in a time with both Apollo missions and the Vietnam war, discovered public libraries had fairly decent science fiction sections. He haunted the aisles of both the City Library on Oak, as well as the County Library, in the basement of the Courthouse. (The City and County would eventually consolidate, requiring only one destination to keep up with the latest in my library addiction) Most of SpaceCadet’s reading was science fiction, but there were forays into actual science subjects, all of which I enjoyed with endless fascination. The world of the future seemed incredibly bright.
Well, things didn’t turn out quite the way SpaceCadet JimmieJoe expected. In some ways they went horribly wrong (wars, famine, pollution, genocide, inflation, political and social factionalism, gas shortages), but in others they went unbelievably well (education, the Internet, LGBT rights, cell phones, computers, the space shuttle fleet and the space station, and that unbelievably crazy sky-crane Mars landing). SpaceCadet JimmieJoe, when he makes his occasional appearances, is amazed by what he sees. His consolation prize for growing up in what seems primitive times, though, is that he does get to live in the future with me. He might not be in charge anymore, but I don’t think he really minds. Much.
There are times, however, when I get a hint that, even with all the future stuff at his disposal, he’s still not satisfied.
Sometimes, as I start my day, standing in front of the bathroom mirror shaving, I’ll look at my reflection, and see him peeking out at me, giving me the stink-eye. I know what that’s about. He just doesn’t understand. Even with space shuttles, space stations, Mars probes, iPhones, the Internet, and all the other wonders of the 21st century, we still don’t have flying cars. SpaceCadet JimmieJoe will never be completely satisfied until he has one.
For now, he’ll have to get by with a space station. Stocked by robot ships. Privately owned robot ships.