In 1963, six years after the first satellite was launched, editors from the Encyclopaedia Britannica posed a question to five eminent thinkers of the day: “Has man’s conquest of space increased or diminished his stature?” The respondents were philosopher Hannah Arendt, writer Aldous Huxley, theologian Paul Tillich, nuclear scientist Harrison Brown and historian Herbert J. Muller.
Sixty years later, as the rush to space accelerates, what can we learn from these 20th-century luminaries writing at the dawn of the space age?
The state of space 60 years on
Much has happened since. Spacecraft have landed on planets, moons, comets and asteroids across the Solar System. The two Voyager deep space probes, launched in 1977, are in interstellar space.
A handful of people are living in two Earth-orbiting space stations. Humans are getting ready to return to the Moon after more than 50 years, this time to establish a permanent base and mine the deep ice lakes at the south pole.