The Dream


This was first published in a semi-prozine almost three decades ago:-

The drought had lasted a million years. The land-locked sea had evaporated until allthat remained were stagnant, muddy, shrinking pools scattered across the parched desert that had once been the bed of the shallow Devonian sea.

A young eusthenopteron swam in one of the smallest puddles. Its primitive lungs could keep it alive for many hours under the direct rays of the burning sun. It had left its pool many times to hunt for food amongst the vegetation growing around the water’s edge, but always it had returned.

Now its home was drying. Eusthenopteron climbed out for the last time and, prodded by blind instinct, it dragged itself on appendages that were half-fin half-feet through the ring of vegetation and out onto the dry mudflats.

For many weary hours it crawled onwards, finally reaching the blessed relief of another larger pool. It had survived where many of its kind had not. As the drought contiued so did this merciless weeding out of the less fit, making the conquest of the land by animal life inevitable.



“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for Man.” Thus spake Neil Armstrong, astronaut, a member of the species sapiens of the genus Homo. The significance of these words is lost on most of his listeners, who see his step as a giant leap for America only. This is not so and Neil Armstrong knew it.

The conquest of space will be as important a step in evolution as was the conquest of the land; the latter led inevitably to intelligence and intellect, the former will lead to … what? Who knows what? The conceptualization of this next step is as beyond us as a comprehension of formal logic would have been to eusthenopteron. And yet our heirs will not be gods for they will possess powers far beyond those attributed to any god of mythology for these are limited by human imagination.

The last paragraph sums up The Dream which permeates the thoughts of all concerned with space research in the United States and no doubt in the Soviet Union also.

Probing liberal politicians and journalists are shocked to find this’ mysticism’. Shocked, perhaps, because they want to find that the driving force behind the Space Program is national prestige. They do not, they find The Dream.

Three hundred million years ago, eusthenopteron gasped across the dry forbidding landscape from one pool to another. Eventually his descendants stayed on the land. Now multistage kiloton fireworks sputter out of one gravity well, across the sunlit planes of space and down into another. Eventually Man will remain in space.

Dry land is to eusthenopteron as Space is to Man. Eusthenopteron had a cousin called coelocanth. Eusthenopteron took his chances on the land, coelocanth sought relief in the deep ocean. Eusthenopteron’s descendants design cities and spaceships, coelocanth’s descendants are coelocanths.

There you have it. We can stay on Earth and stagnate or, yet worse, regress. And perhaps regress we will. Our striving forwards is like the climbing of a mountain; if we turn our backs on the upward slope and take the easy path we embark on a journey that can only end on the shores of the primaeval sea. Or we can leave our cradle and go on. Most people want to be coelocanths and stay the same forever. A few want to be eusthenopterons so that our descendants may be as far above us as we are above primitive fish.

Many want to stagnate.

A few dream The Dream. Me too.

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