Yesterday was, in historical terms, a great day. SpaceShipOne achieved its second successful space flight in a week, winning ten million dollars for its trouble. The age of commercial space travel arrived.
Usually, I don't watch the news on the TV much. Like many people, I've become depressed by it's piss-poor quality, its bias, its utter failure to comprehend anything even vaguely scientific, and the way its schedules are decided by infighting between politicians and journalists. But yesterday was different. Dale Amon has been giving great coverage of SpaceShipOne from the very start, but I wanted to see moving pictures, damn it. So I turned on the TV.
We've got access to all the main twenty-four-hour news channels, which seemed like a good bet. Nope. Flicking between CBS, Sky, BBC, Fox, and some others for half an hour yielded nothing. Not only nothing, but I couldn't help but be struck by the stupidity, pettiness, and pointlessness of the stories they were showing. Mount St Helena is going to errupt fair enough, tell us about that. Ongoing coverage of events in Iraq again, fair enough. But what else were they devoting airtime to? Tory conference, with lots of footage of speeches. Who cares? Peter Mandelson's first day in Brussels. He made a speech in French about how he can speak a bit of French but is generally going to stick to English. They played all of it. Something to do with Manchester United FC. Various other items so uninteresting that I can't even remember them.
Then, finally, ITV News mentions it: "Coming up after the break," apparently. So I wait till after the break, but then they have the interminable sports results. Then the weather. Then about five seconds of footage of SpaceShipOne landing (as if trundling along a runway was the great achievement), followed by a brief snippet of interview with Richard Branson about the flights Virgin Galactic hope to start running three years from now. No words from, and not even a picture of, any of the team behind the achievement. Not even a picture of the pilot. You know what this means? A one-minute-long segment after the sport and weather? That's the dead donkey slot. Seamus the skateboarding jack russell; the schoolboy who's invented a new type of whistle; the ninety-seven-year-old lady from Hertford who rides a Harley. This is what our mainstream news journalists think of one of man's greatest technological achievements ever. What a shower of useless dullards.
Today's papers are the same. SpaceShipOne should be on every front page. It's not on one.
Now, I realise that not everyone shares my interests. I realise that some people are very interested in the goings-on at Man U or what the Tories have to say for themselves. But look at it this way. Twenty years from now, every news broadcast will contain an item mentioning the anniversary of yesterday's flight. By then, commercial spaceflight will either be an everyday thing or, perhaps, it will have ended in accidents so horrific that no-one will have any intention of trying it again. Either way, the date of its dawn will be mentioned. Even wilfully obscure trivia-obsessed "On this day in history" columns around page 41 of the Sunday papers won't mention Peter Mandelson's first day of work in Brussels.
Go read Dale Amon's coverage on Samizdata. We don't need moving pictures. We need vision.