Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin said in a recent interview that Science Fiction and Fantasy movies and television were to blame for lack of interest in the Space program:
“I blame the fantastic and unbelievable shows about space flight and rocket ships that are on today,” Aldrin said in an interview during an ice cream party held by the National Geographic Channel at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., this week. “All the shows where they beam people around and things like that have made young people think that that is what the space program should be doing. It’s not realistic.”
Aldrin is just wrong. Fantasy doesn’t limit interest in real life space exploration. If anything it does just the opposite. Seeing the fantastic images of what might be waiting for us to explore out there motivates people to want to see for themselves. There is a huge interest of everyday people to be able to take a trip out into space.
Everyone I ever met who was interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy was also spellbound by real life exploration like the Hubble Images or the Mars landers. Its difficult to work up a lot of excitement about another mission in space to deliver a solar panel to a space station that none of us will ever see. The problem isn’t that we expect to much, its that we don’t demand enough. We should be far ahead of where we are in exploration but we have let the space program become less and less of a priority over the years.
What is wrong with the space program is that we have allowed ourselves to think of it as a luxury that can be discarded in favor of more Earthly priorities. We have lost the passion we had in the 60s for pushing ourselves to explore. We need to make sure we don’t sacrifice exploration on the altar of practicality. Protecting ourselves is important but so is expanding our minds and our experiences and pushing out into the massive universe that is out there waiting for us to find out if it is as exciting as our imagination suggests it could be.