Buck Rogers, Baby!
Let me back up: I was born precisely in time for Sputnik.
October 4th, 1957. I was about 2 years old, and I remember EVERYTHING about the space program. I have been following it since before I could read.
So, it was with great delight that I heard the news this morning about the Pluto probe, but that was tempered with more than a little disappointment at the imbecility of grown-ups* and their utter inability to comprehend history as it is being made. You have to keep your sense of wonder; you have to remember that this is still a magical and astonishingly wondrous world.
[* see "Moon Day or, A Secret History of Neil Armstrong"]
In January of 2006, we launched our first ion-drive. It is a new technology, relying on the decay of plutonium pellets (we'll talk about the evil nukes some other time, snarkers), and within 18 hours, the spacecraft was motoring past the moon.
Now, using Jupiter's gravitational field, it's added 9,000 miles per hour to its velocity, to 56,000 miles per hour. (According to Relativity, the speed of light in a vacuum is 186,000 miles per second, so there's plenty of room to go faster within Einsteinian Space-Time)
But the wonder was missing from the news stories. Like it was "normal." Like it wasn't a miracle. Like it wasn't a milestone in human development. These little naked monkeys were using Jupiter to turbocharge their hotrods!
Jupiter in less than 14 months! Holeeeee Crap, Batmensch!
I am living IN science fiction. I am living in an Arthur C. Clarke novel, circa 1952:
"The Ion Drive, the fastest object ever created by Mankind, sped past Jupiter, headed for its rendezvous with Pluto, some eight years hence. As it sped past the red giant, the probe turned its cameras and sensors on the Jovian system, sending back new data that would engage the scientists on Earth and Mars for years to come."Jupiter in 14 months (less than)!
-- from an Imaginary Arthur C. Clarke novel, page 124.
That is wonder to anyone who has not yet lost their sense of same.
And, still, we're hauling plutonium to Pluto.
No word on reaction from Newcastle.