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Out of Our Minds
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 9:13 AM
The Wild Blue Yonder
Kevin Salwen on Culture

It seems like space, the final frontier, suddenly is hot again. Longtime space enthusiast Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen yesterday claimed a $10 million prize for getting the same aircraft into space twice within a week. Richard Branson, Virgin mogul, contracted with them to help create Virgin Galactic, a new 'space tourism' company that will lift paying customers into space for a mere $190,000 and up apiece. And a new corporation has begun offering the Average Jo(e) zero-gravity flights like those that NASA runs on its Vomit Comet.

What's behind this resurgence of interest in space, so soon after the shuttle disaster? A chance to dream, of course. It appeals to our fantasies of going to a place not even a sherpa has previously been able to lead us. It's the opportunity for adventure, excitement, challenge.

So, it leads to this question: Why would we pay so much for this kind of one-time rush, but be willing to slog day after day in dissatisfying careers? What am I missing?


Marilyn Noble - 10/6/2004 7:06:32 PM
As someone who was present in Mojave for all three launches of Space Ship One, I would be willing to bet that most of the people who are clamoring to spend their money on one of Sir Richard's first flights are not slogging along in dissatisfying careers. They're dreamers and visionaries who believe in the human spirit, just like the rest of us who are waiting for the cost to come down so that we too, can experience the earth from a different perspective. Being there, talking with astronauts, artists, teachers, aviators, entrepreneurs, and the clerical staff from Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's company, I never heard one person complaining about drudgery. Instead, we all celebrated the accomplishment of a goal, the power of genius, and the heady excitement that will always triumph over cynicism and negativity. This week we saw the dawn of a new era, and for all of us who were there, and for those who weren't but still get it, it's a time to rejoice.
Kevin - 10/6/2004 2:02:29 PM
2 things Jory:
1. Very very nice barf bags
2. Your face pushed back so that you could pose for 'The Scream'
Jory Des Jardins - 10/6/2004 12:22:24 PM
I took a first-class Virgin flight once (it was a gift from a friend who had frequent-flier mileage--I swear I would never spend that kind of money!). I had my nails done before the flight in the members' club, a full-body massage on the flight, three full meals (the flight was from London to San Francisco), my own full-size bottle of wine, and my own entertainment console. Once the seatbelt sign was turned off we could saddle up to the bar in the middle of the section and socialize with the other passengers over drinks and cheese puffs. I hated getting off the plane.

Makes me wonder what extras you'll get if you pay $190k.
Curt Rosengren - 10/5/2004 10:53:54 PM
My thoughts on the matter? Because a one-time rush is exactly that - one time. It takes no commitment. It takes no ongoing work. It is all adrenaline rush and no sweat. It is immediate gratification.

A career that really lights you up, on the other hand, takes work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes commitment. Sometimes it takes going against mainstream thought. While it is inevitably rewarding, it's not always the easy route, the path of least resistance.

Another reason just might be because it's easier for some people to believe they can go into space than to believe they can really have work that makes them feel alive.

Sad, but true.
Brent P. Newhall - 10/5/2004 4:48:31 PM
Adults have a built-in coping mechanism that makes the day-to-day drudgery of a boring job bearable. But a one-time excitement like space travel is a very different thing.


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