The Long Delay Is Nearly Over
This piece was originally published in the New Atlantis.
George Jetson is alive. No, not literally, of course. But in the world of the famous 1960s TV series, set in 2062, George Jetson was forty years old. This means that the Jetson patriarch was born in 2022. For people of a certain age, this is depressing news. It’s a cartoon from childhood about the far future — and the far future is now here.
The year 2022, then, was one of ignominious milestones for humanity’s future in space. Though the year of the Jetsons is still far off, our society then will almost certainly not look anything like the show’s Orbit City. And there was another milestone, too: December 2022 marked fifty years since the last Apollo mission sent men to the Moon, an anniversary that seems to represent a colossal failure of science, technology, and progress.
In early 1960s America, it was perfectly reasonable to imagine a world a century later with flying cars and permanent human space habitats. When Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn were orbiting Earth, you could forgive writers for their imaginations. The show was conceived during a period when people were breathtakingly optimistic about emerging technologies. But 2022 being the year of George Jetson’s “birth” is a funny yet startling reminder that such a future never came true. The cartoons many of us watched growing up with big dreams of the future have remained just that — cartoons and dreams. And people who were born after Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt took humanity’s last steps on the Moon are now old enough to have grandchildren.
Tags: Space policy