At seven years old, during the summer of 1981, I remember the first space shuttle launch. I remember it seemed to take all day before it launched, which at seven feels like forever. I remember it was one of my first moments thinking technology, even as a seven year old, was going to get me to space one day - although the the odds felt a little high. It was one of those moments that said I might get to hang out on the Battlestar Galactica, still my favourite spacecraft today, oh and the X Wing Fighter.
Yesterday evening, however, Elon Musk tore up the rule book with the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Well the rule books we are taught on earth at least. He was obviously either taught off-planet or didn't get the memo.
See, before I am old and I die I want to see space. I want to see Mars, or any other planet for that matter. I probably won’t get to do much and it may be for a blink of an eye but in the back of my romanticised head I have this belief that I don’t want to leave this world on this planet. It's a bit of a pain for my wife but she can just add it to the ever-growing list. And yesterday evening's events told me it might have a high chance of becoming reality.
I love technology. It’s all I know. I love the fact it has no real boundaries. I worry about those boundaries being pushed in the wrong way that is not good for mankind or fuels greed.
I truly believe yesterday was bigger than the space shuttle take off in 1981 in terms of advancement. In many ways it felt like Armstrong on the moon.
I sat with my three year old, Harriet, and watched barriers that have been there for decades, because we were told they were barriers, being broken down. Not only has flight gone the longest distance but did you see those rockets land? Okay, so the Core came crashing down - but even the best companies on the planet make the odd mistake.
The last time any rocket took as much of a payload into orbit was 1973! Even I wasn't born then. We just launched a 737 plane with full fuel, luggage and passengers yesterday. The space shuttle could take less than half that into orbit.
Yesterday probably inspired a million three year olds. One of them will be sat there one day and it will be their job. Someone will be sat there going ‘Elon, that's nothing compared to what I will achieve in this universe’. Elon, along with Spacex, may have just reignited that passion to explore beyond earth. I can see space startups appearing everywhere suddenly across the world.
It's becoming a reality that we might just actually end up colonising Mars (though I'm still not sure that's the right choice).
Are we are on the potential road to sending AI robots out into the depths of space to find undiscovered land like Columbus did discovering the USA? Are we today only seeing 1% of what our children and their children will be aware of in the future as our landscape?
If Elon leaves one legacy above the other successes and possible failures, it's that we need to condition ourselves better to reach for the stars. Dream a little. The thing I loved about technology was that, even back then, sat on my BBC Micro, it didn’t seem to know any boundaries. I could dream and send my imagination to other places outside of an education system that seemed to want to constrain me, a world today that is cynical and ready to knock people down.
The key for me is what has been achieved in eight years with a lot of money spent. It makes you wonder actually what has been happening with the previous 30 years of loads of money spent by NASA for little result. For me, the point is if you really want to do something against all odds then you pretty much can. Out of all of this SpaceX should at least produce a project management framework because this was a different level and a lot of companies could learn something.
I might just get to Mars yet, thanks to my old friend technology. Awesome.