By Gary Michael Church
When Star Trek was moved to its third season ten o’clock slot, I was 8 years old and the show was past my bedtime. I tried watching from the hall by the living room but was eventually caught. Like a significant segment of people in their 50’s, Star Trek is part of my American popular culture heritage. I know that crew far better than any U.S. or world historical figures. It was not until about ten years ago that I became unhappy with Star Trek due to my new interest in actual space exploration. After reading a couple stacks of books on space I began to realize what a tremendous disservice the series had done to my generation and those to follow. Yes, I know it is sacrilege. But sometimes the world is not flat, the sun is not the center of the universe, and at length the truth will out. A large percentage of the population is of this mindset that space exploration will have to wait until the 23rd century and resemble a version of Star Trek. The public is actually unaware of just how close the human race is to being capable of travel to another star. I have not seen the movie Interstellar but my daughter has informed me it is the usual faster-than-light and time travel nonsense. The trash that is now being pushed as science fiction is an insult to the classic story telling found in the early years of the genre. The first master story teller was Jules Verne.
Verne predicted a flight around the Moon launched from Florida (1865), the submarine (1870), and the heavier than air flying machine (1886). In the 20th century the first key enabling technology required for star travel was and is the most powerful device ever created by humankind; the H-bomb. The classified military project Orion used nuclear devices to push a spaceship in separate steps to fantastic velocities. There is still no other practical off-the-shelf system available to enable interplanetary travel.
In the 21st century the second spaceflight enabling technology is potentially the most disruptive event in history. While long a common device in science fiction, suspended animation by freezing human beings for centuries at a time is now on the verge of being realized. How profoundly this will change the human condition has not even been guessed at yet. That freezing human beings to save them from death will become a basic human right cannot be doubted. Very few will allow a loved one to perish without a fight. There is no precedent for the outrage that will result from a fortunate few being saved while the rest are allowed to rot simply because of a patent or piece of paper representing superior means. I call this event “The Great Rescue.” In a chain reaction to this movement to preserve lives, regenerative medicine will replace the defense industry as the number one funded research activity on planet Earth. As the frozen bodies pile up a solution will have to be found. I call the return of those frozen “The Great Awakening.” While the race to cure aging and give the human species an indefinite lifespan begins, safeguarding humankind from extinction will inspire a new space age. Star voyages, Star Treks lasting centuries will become possible. If Jules Verne were born in the 20th instead of the 19th century, he might have written novels about “The Real Star Trek.” A revivable cryopreservation procedure makes star travel possible and practical and is the holy grail of science fiction made real. The religious aspect cannot be denied.