I read an article stating that NASA is going to use a vehicle from Lockheed for future missions. Reading the article over and the oblique statement that NASA is considering manned missions deeper into space, I was struck by two things. The first was that the process by which a man (or woman) is launched into space hasn't really changed all that much over the years. You put them into a small orbiter and strap 'em to a *BIG* rocket. Then you pray it doesn't blow up on the launch pad or have some other catastrophic failure.
For some reason, I thought we'd get farther in our efforts to explore space more efficiently. Reusable orbiters are awesome, don't get me wrong. I thought that was one of the more awesome aspects to the space shuttle. But... I don't know how to phrase it. I was struck with some kind of hope that with the X prize and the research being done in various private sectors (who are all in a bidding war for the next 'space shuttle' nod from NASA) that somebody would possibly develop a better launch system.
The second thing that occurred to me was just how deep into space are they talking about going? Science fiction has dreamed of interstellar and intergalactic travel. Parsecs ticked off like miles on the odometer, and such. Is it a dream or a nightmare that our government who can't manage to figure out how to keep the roads in decent repair is planning their next proverbial moon shot and talking about deep space? I can't shake the image of Hal losing it's marbles. Something about this talk of deep space exploration strikes me as unnerving, but I can't quite place my finger on it.