Imagine the state of the world, and the state of science, in 1640. Galileo Galilei was in his last years, blind, and under house arrest for his view of the solar system, and Isaac Newton had not yet been born. But that year, a clergyman in Oxford wrote this something that foretold of a future that we take for granted as a part of every day life.
I do seriously, and upon good grounds, affirm it possible to make a flying chariot. In which a man may fit, and give such a motion unto it, as shall convey him through the air. And this perhaps might be made large enough to carry diverse men at the same time, together with food for their viaticum, and commodities for traffic…
The perfecting of such an invention would be of such excellent use, that it were enough, not only to make a man famous, but the age also werein he lives. For besides the strange discoveries that it might occasion in this other world, it would be also of inconceivable advantage for travelling, above any other conveniance that is now in use.
So that notwithstanding all of these seeming impossibilities, tis likely enough, that there may be a means invented of journeying to the Moon; And how happy shall they be that are first successful in this attempt?
- John Wilkins, The Discovery of a New World (1640)
In fairness, this was not Wilkins’ first suggestion for flying. His first idea was to build wings people could flap with their own arms, and his second idea was to use a legendary gigantic bird rumored to exist in Madagascar, which was supposedly able to lift elephants. Seriously.
I invite you to join us for January’s final edition of Night Vision, as we recount the incredible story of human spaceflight. We’ll examine the principles, the science, the machines, and the incredible men and women who have fulfilled some of humanity’s oldest and wildest dreams. We’ll trace out the history of space travel, the accomplishments, the difficulties, and the foibles, and we’ll examine the emerging paths and amazing possibilities of the future. See you there!
Night Vision: Human Spaceflight is hosted on Saturday evening, January 30th, in the Hansen Dome Theatre at 6:45pm. Tickets available online or at the Clark Planetarium ticket desk. Free for members and $2 for everyone else.