Now, I don't know about you, but the image of atrophied astrophysicist Stephen Hawking
floating in zero-gee on the Vomit Comet is not one I particularly care to have. Call me a disibilitophobe, but the guy is creepy enough looking without having the power to float
as well...I think I'm probably worried that if he ever put his intellect to an evil
use he could become like, I dunno, Davros or The Mekon...actually, that might be kinda cool.
Still, Hawking's rep as an intellectual big-shot doesn't hold much water w/ me...anyone can sit around in a chair dreaming up concepts
all day (and let's face it, that's what they are: concepts backed up by an arcane algebraic argot that only 500 people in the world can read...it's a bit like the Welsh language). And I bet that Hawking can't draw as well as Jack Kirby could.
Still, he can't be too bright when he keeps coming out w/ synthesised serial-killer voice one-liners like "the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space." Well, bub, here's a newflash: the human race don't have much future either while companies like NASA, Space Florida, Zero-G and Virgin Galactic pander to uber-rich fucking space-tourists, burning up Gawd knows how much fuel over 90 minutes to execute a series of high-velocity parabolas in a custom Boeing 727 to simulate weightlessness for 30 seconds for a bunch of thrill-seeking buttwipes...go to Alton Towers, whydon'tcha.
While it was probably lovely for Hawking to (and I quote) "break free from the restrictions of his paralysed body", how many other disabled people (am I even allowed to use that term any more?) apart from Hawking will have the opportunity to experience something like this? How many can actually either afford or would be given a freebie to do this - Hawking was accompanied by 4 doctors and 2 nurses plus a whole bunch of telemetry equipment just to keep tabs on his health. The kill-joy in me says: carbon emmission notwithstanding, wouldn't that money have been better spent on medical research into preventing/curing motor neurone disfunction or other life-threatening diseases? If course, now he's had his joy-ride, Hawking can kick back and think about black holes and dream up some more groovy intergalactic concepts while attended to by his $100 an hour nurse and private assistant, a luxury most disabled or terminally ill people don't have. The sad truth is that Hawking's rep has basically been sold-off and used as an advertisement for a space-tourism company: look! If he can do it, so can you - you're never too old or infirm to be fleeced by us!
Oh, and before my in-box fills up with emails from moaning social workers from Hackney telling me what a rotten, insensitive bastard I am for baiting disabled (non-enabled?) people, can I point out that my dad had both his legs amputated (gangrene & complications from diabetes) and spent his last 20 years in a wheel-chair. My mum was also crippled with rhematoid arthritis for 25 years. (Funny, don't remember many white liberal social-workers actually being interested in looking after them
...) Neither of them had $100 an hour nurses or free flights in a space-shuttle. The only flights of fantasy my dad had were cheap bottles of whisky from Tesco and Acker Bilk records.
Another space tourist dick, this time a dead one, is Star trek actor James Doohan
aka "Scotty" whose ashes are being shot into space couresy of a Texas-based company who'll send yr remains into orbit on a rocket for a few quid. There's gold in them there final frontiers...
Someone else who consistently gets on my wick is fake hippy Richard Branson, a man who constantly bleats on about global warming and corporate responsibilty, yet seems to have absolutely no sense of irony about the fact that he runs a major airline and also a space tourism company Virgin Galactic (wonder if he paid Hawking to dream that one up?) You've got to hand it to Branson; he's a pragmatic businessman: he recently launched a prize
for helping clean up the Earth's atmosphere, so that corporations like the one he runs won't need to clean up their
act...they can carry on polluting and making money at their current levels while also seeming to care about the environment.
If per chance someone does
come up with some carbon-absorbing tech, then $25mil is peanuts to pay for the rights to something that could potentially make him billions. Branson is in a win-win situation. ("Just imagine an enormous vacuum-cleaner" - what a shithead) And if the world does go belly-up, people like him and his descendents'll be on the first shuttle out to a luxury orbital resort-platform. Bono in space, anyone. ("Ah, well, we did our best to try and save the world...")
Growing up in the Sixties, in the Space Age, I lived the dream of space-travel...I got up at 4 in the morning w/ the rest of the world and saw Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon... but now as an adult, I can see how the US government were actually just playing Cold War politics ("Let's get our army in space before theirs!") but spinning it back as an achievement for all of Mankind...nearly 40 years on and we've ended up in a situation where NASA's main mission now is to deliver military satellite systems, but for a few damn minutes it actually felt good, y'know...in the end, tho, they took our childhood dreams of a better future and soured it, while crapping on Planet earth at the same time. The truth is that Space travel in the future will just be the province of space-tourists and Mega-Corporations that want to mine the moon for helium or rare isotopes or something, after they've strip-mined this world
of everything that can be sold back to us...the rest of us will have to be content, like Hawking, with sitting in our chairs and imagining
Still, maybe not...I was cheered to recently hear plans for a possible anarchist satellite
. Black flags in space? It could still happen.
Where do I sign up?