Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yesterday's Tomorrows

Apollo 11, 40 Years On
Location: Richmond Island and the Moon

As I began to assist our university's team on a build of a House of Usher, for a new course in Rhetoric and Communication Studies, an idea struck me. I thought of the moon landing by Apollo 11, 40 years (and a day) ago.

I was a nerdy space-kiddie then, and I recall Neil Armstrong's first step as one we'd all follow. Those were heady days, with a task force report stating:

We conclude that NASA has the demonstrated organizational competence and technology base, by virtue of the Apollo success and other achievements, to carry out a successful program to land man on Mars within 15 years.

These words were published in September, 1969. In 1984, we had just barely gotten the Space Shuttle off the pad, to languish in low-earth orbit.

Whatever the merits and demerits of human-crewed spaceflight, the 60s program had a "reach" and a promise of new worlds, even if they only were available to a few lantern-jawed rocket-men.

I feel pretty strongly that one of the feelings that motivates me to work hard in virtual worlds is the promise of a frontier, albeit an electronic one, with a sense of embodiment that I never had on the "flat" Internet. And when I attach one prim to another, I'm making something new in a new world.

New Worlds?

Our House of Usher build, and the rest of SL for that matter, are not Mars colonies, but they will have to do. And it may explain why so many builders and creators are drawn less to games and more to worlds that permit user-generated content.

I'll just keep building and hoping until, to quote Tom Wolfe in the New York Times, we do set about "recovering NASA’s true destiny, which is, of course, to build that bridge to the stars."

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