Anandraj Singh, Broadside Correspondent

Of the activities I took part in during the first two weeks of 2010, none were quite as depressing as watching some of the old, classic science-fiction movies, ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey to even the Back to the Future trilogy.

It’s 2010 already – why have we had so few footprints on the moon? Why is there not a single one on Mars yet?

What happened to the dreams that people like Arthur C. Clarke had – dreams of being in outer space in more than just an incomplete station that will function only another five years at best, unless it gets a shot in the arm?

It seems that people – not just here, but all over Earth – appear to have grown a bit sedentary when it comes to exploring beyond our tiny little ball of dirt.

Sure, we have many interesting missions coming up later this decade – from the James Webb Space Telescope, to the many unmanned Mars exploration missions that are in the planning stages.

However, at the end of the day one has to realize that these missions, while incredibly vital and important, are really only lip service to the entire concept of space exploration that was dreamed of in the 1960s.

Back then, we went from propelling a man to merely orbit the surface of the Earth in 1961, to landing on the surface of the Moon in 1969. The technologies and innovations developed during those times were break throughs. If one considers it, within those nine short years, we did more to actually step further away from Earth than we have in our entire lifetime.

The 1970s would only expand on this knowledge to give us the Voyager probes, the space shuttle, the first man-made space station and eventually the MIR space station.

The scale of these advancements made in those years were so profound that they would last for almost half a century, to the point where we still use the shuttle and Soyuz capsules for a lot of deliveries to the space station and beyond.

But where has that spirit of innovation – that spirit of exploration – gone? It seems that nowadays, at least, we’re missing that one spark that quite literally surged humanity from the Earth to the moon in rapid time and inspired an entire generation of science fiction writers and shows.

Even after giving the difficulties posed by simple physics its due, the pace at which space exploration has moved forward is pretty disappointing given what we were capable of almost half a century ago.

Perhaps it’s because we have become disillusioned with space, between all the global economic depressions, humanitarian disasters, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, simple physics and late-night fights between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.

So many things press for our attention almost immediately that it’s all too easy to just throw your arms up and say, “Forget about the frontiers. What about all the problems over here?”

This attitude is an entirely fair one. After all, if one cannot manage to solve the problems in one’s own home, how can one bother with what lies beyond reach – or rather, why they bother is a better question.

The best answer to that question is another question: why not? Exploration beyond what was thought possible – beyond what limited budgets were available – is what brought Christopher Columbus to the Americas in the first place.

Even though the Atlantic is hardly a sufficient analogy for the daunting tasks that space exploration entail, for its time, it was pretty close given how little support Columbus had and how much he had to struggle – and look what we have for it today.

Who knows what usable properties and minerals are not just on Mars, but within the asteroid belt? What about the potential of life in the ice underneath the sixth moon of Jupiter, Europa? What of potential power sources harnessing the Sun in ways otherwise impossible on Earth?

Even looking to more practical methods, the techniques and technologies developed in creating space habitations alone would prove to be fairly useful to Earth-bound individuals, especially when it comes to recycling systems and other related endeavors.

This, of course, doesn’t factor in any one of the countless number of experiments being done on the International Space Station in just as many fields.

There are a million reasons for why we shouldn’t bother with outer space, but at the same time, there are a million reasons for why we should. There are obstacles along the way – from simple physics to simple lack of budgets – but as we saw in the 1970s, obstacles are surmountable, if there is a will to do so.

The very fact that private space ventures, like Spaceship One, are being developed is proof that, if there is a will, there is a way.

Technology is slowly beginning to reach another peak to bring us forward into another potential golden age of space exploration. It is proof that the tiny bit of will we have right now is paying great dividends with the miniscule budget it is given in most western economies.

This says nothing of what might be achieved should another real spark of interest suddenly flare up like it did in the 1970s. Whether that spark will emerge in the Far East or will once more resurface within the West, largely remains to be seen.

Right now my only wish is that it show itself somehow. Somehow, somewhere, I just wish that the dying vision of reaching to the stars is given a second jolt of life – simply because of the fact that, potentially, through the wisdom gained from the accomplishments of such exploratory endeavors, the world and the course of human development, can change drastically.

And believe me, given the way it’s been for the past several decades, such a drastic change would be nothing short of welcome, if only to get away from the inanity of it all.