Friday, June 13, 2008

What's the next moon shot?

We were at the airport, sending Sonny's granny off on her 20-hour trip to look in on her other grandson. Sonny's main contribution was to noisily short-circuit the departure-gate goodbyes.

Anyway, we got to wondering what sort of 'great achievements' were left that might astound Sonny in a decade or two. Flying halfway round the world, on a whim or on business, is already completely routine. We can get pretty much to anywhere in the world without much trouble. Even spaceflight is ho-hum. If and when the first human lands on Mars, it'll be a landmark - but nobody pretends that it would be as groundbreaking as, say, when Armstrong reached the moon.

Should we look to politics? We were watching television, Sonny as attentive as usual ('burble burble'), and there was Barack Obama sewing up the Democratic nomination for the US presidency. A black man now has a supremely viable shot at the world's most powerful political post - and he only just squeezed out Hilary Clinton, who would have been the first woman to come that close. So does anything still seem impossible in any survey of the 'art of the possible'? Perhaps there'll be a world government to come... but since we already have the United Nations, the European Union and countless free trade agreements pointing the way, it will seem more incremental than anything else.

We could, of course, keep scouring the whole realm of human endeavour. There's sports, and whatever the future equivalent may be of the one-minute mile. Tiger Woods beating Nicklaus' 18-Major mark in golf - nailing 20, or 25? Thing is, we're probably too inured to records being broken in sports.

In the end, our best bet is for some unheralded field opening up that the generation now raising Sonny can't even imagine. Computers, the Internet, genetics: These came out of left field, and the world will never be the same. We never did come up with any new milestone to match the moon shot. But chances are that human achievement will trump our limited imaginations, and that Sonny will get his chance at wonder.