The dawn of a new space age arrives

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the manned Crew Dragon spacecraft attached takes off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, May 30 (local time). Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the manned Crew Dragon spacecraft attached takes off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, May 30 (local time). Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From what seems like the dawn of time, humans have looked to the stars. We have searched for God, for purpose, for identity, for guidance, for progress from among them and we have created stories and cultural narratives about their meaning.

As a history graduate, I have studied closely the progress of humankind across the millennia from ancient Egypt and the invention of the wheel to Galileo and the development of heliocentrism.

I loved the Renaissance period - the ideas, the rediscovery of the ancient Greek teachings and the genius of now-famous historical figures that seemed to illustrate just how far ahead of their time they were.

Our ancient ancestors have mapped the stars, using them to create calendars, to explore ideas about our place in the universe, to develop mathematical concepts and scientific theories. For thousands of years we have looked up. It speaks to our genetic coding, I think, that humans seem to inherently be adventurous explorers. In so many ways, we have collectively conquered the Earth over and over again, mapping its coastlines and fighting over its arbitrary lines that are meant to divide us.

We are told that space is our final frontier - the last challenge to conquer in our quest for both scientific and theological understanding, for knowledge, for answers. We are told that space holds our future. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made the public claim that the US would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade and on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 made the first successful lunar landing. This marked a victory in the space race against Russia.

However, we are now finding ourselves in a new space race and the playing field has expanded. We are now seeing the race take root in the private sector. Commercial space technology companies are shaping the Space Age through Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Yuri Milner backing the Breakthrough Starshoot project and of course, Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Eighteen years ago, Elon Musk founded SpaceX, a private US aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company with the bold vision to lead humanity to a multiplanetary existence.

Last weekend - almost 59 years to the day since JFK's historic announcement - SpaceX launched Dragonship Endeavour into Earth's orbit. This marked the first manned commercial space flight in our history, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on board, to guide the craft to dock with the International Space Station.

I felt like a giddy schoolgirl watching the launch from halfway around the world, and sat amazed as I watched them with the three touchscreens in front of them. Gone was the clunky dashboard I was so familiar with through watching movies about our forays into the great vacuous depth of space.

Watching them via a live webcast from my own lounge room made it really hit home just how far we've come. We are blessed to live in a world that no longer fears technological advancement to the point of arresting scientists who question what we believe to be true.

We are blessed to live in a world that no longer fears technological advancement to the point of arresting scientists who question what we believe to be true.

When President Donald Trump announced the establishment of the US Space Force in 2018 and later unveiled the logo, the world was quick to laugh at the absurdity of the parallels to the Star Trek logo which led many people to question whether Trump was peddling his own cycle of fake news.

But it soon became apparent that the new division of the US Air Force was indeed real and I admit to being just a little bit thrilled.

I cannot help but quietly wonder if what we are witnessing here - between the commercialisation of space flight and the establishment of a military Space Force - isn't the real dawning of the very Space Age we've all been craving since Captain Kirk and later Jean-Luc Picard led us to boldly go where no man has gone before.

As Elon Musk said, "It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars."

As we step forth on this virgin ground, we must remember that we do so only by standing on the shoulders of giants who shared the noble pursuit of bettering the human experience. May we live long and prosper.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocate at impressability.com.au

This story World witnesses the dawn of new space age first appeared on The Canberra Times.