Sailing into the future

Anyone who knows me well, or has read more than a handful of my SF stories, knows that I’m a true child of the Space Age. So it rankles with me when I’m forced to admit that I probably won’t live to see humans walk on Mars. Indeed, even seeing new boot-prints on the Moon during the next couple of decades seems a bit of a stretch. Perhaps China might manage it. I can’t see anyone else getting close.

Yet despite my pessimism about boot-prints, it thrills me to realise that we live in a great age of exploration, albeit one conducted by robots. We have two working rovers on Mars, Cassini still orbiting Saturn, Rosetta soon to drop a lander onto a comet’s nucleus, and Dawn and New Horizons heading for their close encounters with Ceres and Pluto respectively. First after first after first, either happening now or coming up in the next year or two. Invariably though, the SF writer in me (and lapsed astronomer too) is keen to know what else might happen during the coming decades. Might we see an orbiter probe Europa’s sub-surface ocean with radar, or its cousin sniff the water vapour outgassing from Enceladus for traces of organics? Most challenging of all: might our robotic proxies go sailing on Titan? The second largest moon in the solar system, Titan boasts substantial bodies of liquid hydrocarbons near its poles. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a view of Saturn, in all its ringed glory, rising over a hazy coastline?

If we can’t have boot-prints, I’d settle for that.