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Published:August 19th, 2005 13:18 EST
Where Is My Jetpack?!

Where Is My Jetpack?!

By Sean Stubblefield

Where Is My Jet Pack?!

The 1939/ 1940 World`s Fair in New York featured an incredible exhibit entitled The World of Tomorrow ", which envisioned life in the future. It presented an era when everything would be immaculately smooth and rounded, everyone would wear crisp, clean silver or white body suits, and every home would have a robot servant. The Disney Epcot Center features a similar "Future World" attraction. 

From the early 1900s through the 1960`s, both science fiction and science fact sometimes-- a bit naively, it turns out-- imagined that by the year 2000, things like robots, jetpacks and hover cars would be in common usage. That`s both a testament to how quickly technology is progressing and what our imagination is capable of dreaming.

Such technological and scientific optimism was a sign of hope for the future, and representative of our expectations for progress.

Well, it`s now 2005 and I still don`t have a jet pack. Neither does anyone I`ve ever met.

So what happened?

In many ways and areas, science and technology have evolved and improved remarkably in just the last 50 years. But in other areas, by comparison, technological advancements have been relatively slow and deficient. Any number of things could be keeping me from my jetpack: economics, politics, limitations of current technologies and knowledge, insufficient materials and resources, lack of courage, imagination, inspiration, incentive or initiative. So many things are kept from being accomplished (done right or rightly done), simply because we can`t afford it, or it`s not profitable. Progress and science and technology are being impeded by mere money?

That sounds preposterous, when you really think about it. Well, it does to me.

How are we ever going to become a space faring people if we let a silly little thing like money get in the way of our destiny among the stars?

Curiosity and colonization are two fundamental human imperatives. Logically, space travel is a natural human progression and inclination, and therefore is (or should be) of great human concern and consideration. How can NASA, or other space agencies, not have every power and every resource made available to them to advance this effort of human expansion into space?

Surely, if the proper resources and initiative were applied, we would be technologically further along than we are. Surely, we are capable of doing more?

It is true that necessity is the mother of invention. So, apparently the general public does not believe space travel is necessary. Desire, I propose, is the father of invention.

Maybe it isn`t enough to just need it, but we must want it, as well.

The Space Shuttle Orbiter was introduced in 1977, as the vehicle for launching people and supplies into space, and these vehicles continue to be the usual and preferred means of orbital transportation.

But considering increasing concerns and problems with material and ice falling off of, and causing damage to, the craft (as when the shuttle Challenger exploded), a new model of launchers, deemed safer, is planned to replace the space shuttle when they are expected to be retired from service in 2010. Whereas the space shuttle is aligned parallel, this new design will be stacked vertically, resembling the Saturn V rockets commonly used for the Apollo missions, prior to the inception of the shuttles, allowing any loose debris to fall away from the exterior.

While it may seem retro ", a move backwards, these new vessels, called Crew Exploration Vehicles (CEV), will incorporate modern technology, even utilizing elements and experience from the shuttles.

With the support of NASA, Boeing`s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency WAS developing and testing an orbital space plane-- named X-37, or Spaceship One " as a possible shuttle replacement; but that project appears to have been dismissed in favor of the CEV rocket.

We first went to the moon in 1969, which was a giant leap for mankind, but we can`t seem to get passed that as our great venture into space. We are no closer to space travel now, at least in practical terms, than we were then. And there are still no manned missions to Mars under way. If we cared as much about space travel as we do about our lap top computers, X-boxes and cell phones we`d already be space bound.

After 35 years, it`s a little disappointing to me that we are almost right back were we started, in regards to space flight. If this represents the best that our best scientific minds can achieve, then " barring a miraculous discovery-- we have a very long way to go, a long time to wait, before human kind are able to travel and explore space beyond our solar system. What are we waiting for?

I was promised a jetpack "