I was flying from Phoenix to Chicago, and I was reminded again of how flying in a jet must be the kind of ride we’ll experience when we have interplanetary travel. It’s an unreal sort of feeling — with the muffled sound of the big engines.
No sensation of speed at all, but a suspended feeling with old Mother Earth so far below.
For some reason, the young man who drove me to the Phoenix Airport from my hotel and I got to talking about how the world’s population is compounding. We discussed the fact that, of all the human beings who have ever lived since man first appeared on earth, a full 10% are alive today. The population of the United States alone — which is only 6% of the world’s total — is roughly the same as was the population of the entire earth at the same time of the birth of Christ.
And in talking about this, I startled my young driver by mentioning that there will come a time in the foreseeable future when our people will begin to migrate to other planets in the galaxy. Space-age pioneers finding new lands and new homes on the distant worlds of outer space. Giant passenger and cargo ships plying the long dark routes between worlds. Just as the world is shrinking every day, so is the universe itself — and our technology advances on it.
Someday, when someone asks you where Charlie is, you’ll be able to say, “He’s out of this world,” — and mean it.
As I sat in the jet and watched the world go by more than six miles below — with our airplane tearing along with the speed and force of six full-scale hurricanes — I became aware that the people chatting, reading, and napping in the big ship were traveling in a winged projectile which will be as rudimentary in ten or twenty years as the DC-3. Evermore, man is looking toward the stars and for the means of tearing himself loose from the planet which has, for so long, been his home.
As long as a single star exists beyond the range of man’s inspection in the incalculable depths of space, he will never rest.
Our age is truly remarkable — but the ages to come will make the wildest science fiction seem tame and unimaginative by comparison.
I was talking to a scientist one time, and we were having fun speculating on the number of planets in the universe which could sustain human life as we know it here. He made the remark that he felt it was safe to divide by a million. That is, take all the planets in the galaxy — in all the galaxies — and divide their number by one million. This might give you a clue as to how many worlds we could inhabit. Of course, even dividing by a million leaves millions of planets of all sizes where future human beings could live and raise their children.
Expatriates in space, as it were.
The next time the night is clear, look at the sky with its millions and billions of twinkling suns and worlds and realize that the door, which has been closed upon its secrets for so long a time, is beginning to open. And that you are looking at the future home of man.
And the next time you ride in a jet, close your eyes on takeoff. And imagine that you’re on your way to Mars or Venus… or beyond.
Man has never thought of anything that he has not accomplished or is not now in the process of accomplishing.