The Planet of the Apes line was the first thing I thought of when this picture popped up on my Facebook feed this morning.
|White Castle by Yuri Shwedoff|
Unfortunately, in my pessimism, this picture paints what I fear is our space-faring future. It struck a chord with me, and not a good one. I'm one who firmly believes that mankind should be out there among the stars, exploring, learning, growing, and discovering as we have throughout our existence. I look out into the night sky now and wonder, "Where is our Columbus? Our Marco Polo? Our Thor Heyerdahl or Jacques Cousteau? Where is this generation's (or the next generation's) Neil Armstrong or Jim Lovell?" Forget what you may think of their supposed politics, alleged ethics, or remembered reputation: these men were explorers. They stretched our maps and widened our world views, risking life, limb, and possibly soul to do so. They were men of vision. They were heroes.
I still remember the thrill and adrenaline rush from the first shuttle launch. My father roused me early one morning and dragged me downstairs to watch. "Dragged" I say...I had always resented being born just a little bit late to see the moon landing; I wasn't going to miss this for the world. My father later had the opportunity to be present at a shuttle launch; he took pictures and, through his experiences--both there and as a bomber pilot--I watch the launches now and can almost physically feel the shock wave from the engine ignitions and the G-pressures from the acceleration. I remember looking at these men (and later women) as heroes. Certainly the crews of the Challenger and Columbia shuttles are heroes. Once we had vision and a drive to learn.
Now we're relegated to milk runs to a cramped little tin can in orbit. Especially as Americans, who have to humble ourselves to hitch a ride on someone else's bus to that flea-bag in space. Great way to honor the memories of the countless heroic astronauts who gave their lives to the space program and the idea of exploration.
We should be stretching out our hands and minds, embracing the wonder, the adventure, and the risk. From that activity comes growth, learning, and countless benefits to society. The other way--the way we're taking now--ultimately results in becoming Morlocks and Eloi.
That being said, the DM in me sees this image as a potential modern version of the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The "verticality" of the shuttle gives rise to some interesting environmental questions, though, like "how best to traverse the interior?" and "just how do we get inside that thing anyway?" Of course, the modern version of the dungeon--as suggested here--couldn't be much of a dungeon crawl; the size difference in the shuttle systems makes that unlikely. I mean, just compare the potential maps between the two. Canaveral Cape would have to be extended to the base itself and the various outbuildings. The STS and the tank/boosters alone just wouldn't be enough for a full adventure.
Hmm. Now there is an idea.
Dang. Now I'm going to spend all day looking through online NASA files for blueprints and such. Sigh.