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Marcus Middleton

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Why Stop at the Stratosphere When We Can Reach the Stars?

Posted: 15/10/2012 15:20

I take my cap off to Felix Baumgartner. Any person with the courage to rise 128,000 feet (24 miles) into the sky before jumping back down to Earth is a braver man than I will ever be... Hell, despite trying several times... I'm still too scared to ride the London Eye!

Watching him on my computer screen I was as nervous as all get out. It was as if I was standing on the ledge myself, I could taste the bile rising in the back of my throat, my stomach was contracting as it turned into knots and just when I thought I was about to explode... He jumped.

Then he became no more than a white dot on my screen, knowing I was not missing out on all that much and as it was five in the morning here in Sydney. I went into the kitchen, put my kettle on, made a cup of coffee and grabbed a banana.

Only after this I came back into my study... And hey! Wouldn't you know it? Felix was still free failing! I probably had time to go back and make a sandwich!

However I stayed and drank my coffee and ate my banana just to make sure his chute opened properly, nervously waiting until finally the crowd at mission control began to cheer as the parachute burst open with success. From here it was just a matter of waiting for Felix to float safely back down to terra firma.

This was when the adrenaline and excitement of the morning's mission started to wear off. When it was over, I found myself left alone and half asleep asking this question;

Why is my generation content to 'turn back' in our pursuit for greatness at the stratosphere, when our parents and grandparents generation reached for the stars?

For us, why does the sky have to be the limit? It's not fair. Is there really nothing left to explore? No boundaries to push? No new ground to discover?

I don't want to take anything away from this man or his achievement... But at the end of the day, if you look at it objectively... all he did was jump with a parachute... Albeit it was a very high jump, but still... what was its purpose?

Granted it truly did make me very excited to watch and around the newsroom today it was all people were talking about... but still... I hate to be the one to say it, but it's been done before.

It's this fact that made me rather sad. Because if we are so jubilant about this very courageous (yet by no means magnificent) feat then it is clear to me we've given up the quest for innovation and greatness altogether.

Don't get me wrong. I want to thank Felix Baumgartner for making me feel alive with pride in all that we, the human race can achieve. What he accomplished today is an example of our pursuit of excellence, our intimate curiosity, our desire to discover, achieve and our courage to 'jump into the unknown'.

As exciting as watching this jump was, it was still 'just a jump'. I could not help but think about and envy my parent's generation, because they lived in a time when human achievement was only limited by what you could imagine.

They were in their late teens when man was first shot into space and they were as old as I am now, in their mid-twenties when man first walked on the Moon. I wish I was there to see that. What that moment must have been like I am jealous to know? Just to be able to live in those times, to see them and to be free to dream what man will conquer next.

Our parents and our grandparents were lucky enough to live in an age of greatness that has so far been unequalled in all of human history.

Theirs was the age of space travel, airplanes, motorcars and even ships that could travel for months on end underneath the seas. It was the age of antibiotics, social security, women's suffrage, civil rights, free education and the creation of NHS... While it's not perfect and they made mistakes, they at least had the courage to change the world and they changed it for the better.

The Twentieth Century was born with Captain Scott racing Amundsen to see who would be first to be able to reach the South Pole and look, it ended with the common person being able to traverse the globe in under a day!

It also began with parts of the world unseen by human eyes, now I can look down upon any corner of the Globe with Google Maps from my lounge room!

Our world changed so much in one hundred years, but we were promised a future in the stars. Yet at the turn of this Century, we've let ourselves turn back at the sky.

Look back at the first half of the Twentieth Century. Their brightest minds eradicated small pox and polio. Now, I stand ashamed as I compare that to the turn of Twenty-First. While previous generations bettered the whole of mankind, our 'best and brightest' were not curing disease, because they were sadly too busy perfecting plastic surgery and inventing little blue pills that could give you a "hard-on" for hours.

What went wrong? Where did we lose our way? Wasn't 2001 meant to be a Space Odyssey? Or what of Stephen Spielberg' vision of a 2015... filled with flying cars and hover boards. Now 2015 is only three years away, but in reality we are still wondering what to do when we run out of the fuel that drove the last Century of innovation.

I for one, I want my hover board. You told me it would be here... I waited... Now where is it?

I'm not taking anything away from what took place in Roswell, New Mexico yesterday. What Felix Baumgartner achieved was courageous sure... But it was by no means revolutionary. I would like to think of his jump as a child getting back onto a bike after it had fallen off, not inventing the wheel. I hope that we as the human race will use this daredevil feat as the "kick start" we needed to inspire us back towards that wonderful ambition we once had, discovery.

Let this Century be the one that cures Cancer, Aids and Alzheimer's. Let this Century be the one that ends poverty throughout the world once and for all... I say let this Century be the one where we learn progress without destroying the Earth and finally achieve a true and meaningful peace... Let's make this Century the Century where man will set foot on Mars.

And please... For the love of God... Let this Century be the one where I get my bloody hover board!

These are just a few examples of what we can achieve... I know it's ambitious, but if we hurry... There's still time. We dared to be great once... Why can't we dare to be great again?

 
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