Aside from the prospect of nuclear armageddon, the future looked good in the early 1960s:
In some ways I'm very relieved that we aren't all living in domed cities and flying helicars - I think the novelty would wear off quite quickly - but I do miss the optimism of the Space Age. Regardless of its scientific value, there is a heroic quality about manned space flight that excites us.
When the space shuttles were decommissioned without being replaced, it was part of a subtle shift that has taken place in our attitude towards the future. I became particularly aware of this when my youngest son asked me why there were supersonic airliners and moon landings when I was a little boy, but not now.
As he was too young for a lecture on postmodernism and the cultural legacy of the end of the Cold War, I gave him the short answer: they cost too much money.
But NASA's estimate that a return to the moon would cost $104 billion seems a drop in the ocean compared to the $757.8 billion that the US Department of Defense claims that it spent in Iraq (some claim that it's much higher in reality).
Maybe it's just the chattering classes of Lewes (aka 'Islington-on-the-Downs'), but whoever I talk to there is a growing pessimism about the future. People seem to be battening down the hatches, buying wood burning stoves, preparing for an age of hardship and struggle.
Returning to the moon might seem a frivilous and irrelevant enterprise, but it would help to foster a new sense of optimism. Posterity never condemns a generation for spending too much money on a beautiful building or a miraculous piece of engineering, but it does condemn them for a lack of vision and courage.
That's my geeky fantasy, anyway. Obviously, this would be the ideal:
I know that I should be thinking about eradicating third world debt, saving public libraries and reducing our carbon emissions, rather than moonbases run by women in catsuits. I'm sorry.
I must admit I not all there at the moment. I've been bedridden with a chest infection for the last three days and I think the drugs are getting to me, hence this strange post. I hate being ill.
The one thing that's keeping me sane is Somerset Maugham's 'Of Human Bondage', which I'm reading for the first time. Who would have thought that a 1915, 700-page bildungsroman could be so compelling? (Don't tell me how it ends)
But as the author wrote:
"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life".