Oh, the Places You Will Go! (Apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Tempus Fugit, Time flies. What was my future will now be something my grandson sees as ancient history. It occurred to me, while looking over the latest images from the Webb telescope of far-off galaxies and exoplanets, that my grandson’s future is something almost unimaginable when compared to my own time as a wide-eyed 18-month-old bundle of possibilities.

In January 1958, when I was the same age as Levi, there were only two Satellites orbiting the earth. The Sputnik I was Russian made, weighed only a few pounds, broadcast for only three weeks, and burned up in the atmosphere on January 4, 1958. Sputnik 2 lasted 165 days in orbit before burning up. The first American Satellite, Explorer 1, didn’t launch until January 31, 1958.

It was a wake-up call for the USA and a major contributor to the cold war.

Today, there are thousands of satellites in orbit. Two American spacecraft, Voyage 1 and 2, have left the solar system and are now billions of miles into interstellar space. For Levi, the launch of a satellite won’t even be newsworthy unless it blows up, and he’ll miss the genuine drama of having a TV show cut off by, “We interrupt this broadcast….”

In 1958, the first passenger jet flight from New York to Paris took place. 11 crew members and 111 passengers. Flight time was 8 hours and 42 minutes with a fueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, because the plane could not carry sufficient fuel for the entire flight.

Today, the Airbus 380-800 can carry a maximum of 853 passengers with a range of 8,208 miles without refueling..

In 1958, polio was a serious threat. Over the decades, the threat was eliminated, yet it once again has reared its ugly head. Levi is inoculated as part of the regular series of vaccinations given to children (at least by parents who are intelligent enough to ignore bad science about such medical matters) but he missed out on the exciting times when we got the sugar cube treatment for polio.

The changes seen since 1958 until today were unimaginable in that seemingly black and white world I was born into. Levi’s world is in some ways more expansive (in his lifetime travel to the moon or even perhaps Mars as a tourist option may be a reality) than mine, yet in some ways smaller thanks to the speed at which we can travel around the globe.

The possibilities of change, and the rapidity with which these changes occur, are almost unfathomable. Progress seems to expand exponentially over time.

His generation face challenges we only barely understood or could not envision. Nuclear weapons, climate change, and extreme radical philosophies all pose genuine threats to the survivability of this country and the world.

Yet, I have a strong faith in the ability of humans to correct the errors of their ways and find a path to not only survive, but to thrive.

When Levi is my age today, sixty-six years old, it will be the year 2087. Such a date seems more a title to a science fiction novel than an actual date. What the world will look like, what our exploration of the deepest recesses of the universe will have uncovered, what our scientific efforts will have produced, where we will be as a society and as a planet, all are unknowable to us. Yet I hope as he looks back on his life, he will have made many journeys, met many people, seen many things, and played his part in the future.

Oh, the places he will go…

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