Space. Apart from being really big (yes, and you thought a walk down to the chemist's was a long way away), it's also surprisingly close by: only an hour's drive away by car. If your car could drive upwards. And fly. And was airtight. And had heat shields. And was man rated for survival in a vacuum. But anyway, let's not nitpick with Hoyle.
Instead, what we'll do is take a trip in the Delorean and go back to the 1970s, when men were real men, women were real women and oil crises were real oil crises. Oh, and NASA was brimming with optimism (as much as it could be, after the incredibly stupendous feat of actually putting a man on the FUCKING MOON was relegated to the back pages of news) and actually wanted to, say, do something fun and ambitious like colonise the rest of the universe.
The thing is, before you can colonise the rest of the universe, you've got to colonise, say, the little bit of space around your planet. Think of it as camping out in your back garden before you fly off to another continent for six months. Sometimes you just want to start small. Or, as the case may be absolutely bloody huge.
NASA commissioned a whole slew of artwork that promised to show us Where We'd Be: elegant white villas in a torus the scale of which seems now to be absolutely insane. Why insane? Because right now, we've got this, a pitiful thing with noise levels that are an occupational hazard and requires so much maintenance that there's hardly any time to do any real research. Oops.
Best get back to being absolutely gobsmacked or nearly tearing up with nostalgia from pictures you saw as a child (yes, that is a suspension bridge. In a space station. They seriously thought we'd be doing that.)
As an exercise for the reader, compare and contrast with The Collectibes Exhibit: 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Space. We're not really living in it.
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