The slow unwinding.

There was a time when a (well-do-do, granted) man-in-the-street could travel at twice the speed of sound, 18km above the earth, as often as he wanted. Ten years ago today, we lost that. The Concorde made its last passenger flight.

This quote, from ten years ago, hits it right on the button:

The Roman Empire crested at Hadrian’s Wall and thereafter retreated slowly, step-by-step, so gradually that few people noticed that with every year, there was a little less.

The Western Empire, did we crest at the Moon? If we did, surely the death of Concorde is akin to the last of Rome’s Legions departing Britain. And the most troubling sign is not that Concorde is no more, but that we watch it’s passing with such complacency.

We’re throwing away the future. We have seen the stars, and meekly followed the State back to our mud puddles and sandboxes.

Then, in 2011, the Space Shuttle made its last flight ever. With no replacement.

Right now, we have people like SpaceX and Virgin working hard to get back to where we were. Back into space, back on the moon (we were last there in 1972 — are you spotting the pattern here?) and beyond.

I fear that we are living at the crest, and I hope that I am wrong.


(This blog post partly inspired* by Spider Robinson’s In the Olden Days (pdf and online). Go read.)

* I doubt that “inspired” is really the right word.