Everyone is familiar with the hackneyed phrase: “When I grow up, I will become an astronaut.” Once the ultimate dream of schoolchildren has long become a part of the mythology of the Soviet era. But generations change, and the stars only get further.
A hero not of our time
To understand whether adolescents’ interest in space exploration is fading away, you need to take a closer look at what the modern generation of schoolchildren is and how they differ from their predecessors.
There is an opinion that in the 21st century people have become more pragmatic and have lost their daydreaming. At the same time, it would be fundamentally wrong to believe that the world was left without passionaries. On the contrary, modern schoolchildren are not at all occupied with ambition, the only question is what they want to spend it on.
In recent decades, it has become fashionable to classify generations into boomers, millennials and buzzers. They create exciting content and intent to buy tiktok followers. In the 1990s, relying on economic development, American scientists William Strauss and Neil Hove developed a theory of generations. The idea of the authors was that the events taking place in politics and economics influence the formation of a person as a person and largely shape his behavior. In fact, the good old “being determines consciousness.”
The theory is regularly criticized, but economists and marketers are increasingly using it to understand the needs of a particular age group. Baby Boomers are people who were born in 1940-1961. They are distinguished by inspiration and patriotism. This period saw the explosion of fertility, the Cold War, the conquest of space and dreams of travel to distant worlds.
It was at this time that the first artificial satellite went into space, and a little later the first manned flight into orbit took place. At the same time, even then, after the first fascination with new horizons, a deep reflection began: why does a person need all this infinite space if he cannot fully understand himself.
Gradually, science fiction began to revolve not around the planet, but around the man lost in the noise of time. Examples include Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, and Stanislav Lem’s Solaris.
Then it became clear that space would not solve human problems. Perhaps he was simply not ready for new opportunities that he was unable to grasp. In the 1970s, the consumer society began to flourish, because all the same will not fly into space at once, and you can still have time to live well on Earth.
And if the generation of millennials (1980-1990s) is distinguished by spontaneity and unhurriedness, often with a bias towards infantilism, then the generation of zoomers born in the 2000s has a clear understanding that there is no need to jump over their heads, it is better to choose a direction close to you, and create the most comfortable conditions for achieving the goal.
Who the tiktokers and buzzers dream of becoming
Unlike their predecessors, digital services and technologies are a natural and integral part of life for most buzzers in large cities. The vast majority of people of this generation are still in school, however, according to some estimates, not many of them plan to continue their education at a university.
This is another feature of the new generation – they do not strive to become a part of any institution, but prefer to create autonomously, and for this they only need a smartphone in their hands. Therefore, when it comes to work, they will more often choose self-employment or telecommuting. The popular TikTok platform gives them an opportunity to be famous on tik tok and tell more people about yourself, share personal achievements and skills.
According to statistics, about 50% of ninth-graders leave schools and go to colleges and technical schools, the rest finish their studies until the final grade and are thinking about entering a university. This trend was revealed by a study conducted by the Center for the Economics of Continuing Education, RANEPA. Having interviewed 1,700 people from Moscow and the Central Federal District, the researchers found that the demand for higher education is falling.
However, the doctor of sociological sciences of the North-West Institute of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Albina Beschasnaya notes that the children have not stopped dreaming. The professor cites the factors influencing the preferences of modern children in choosing a future profession, in particular in the space sphere. “Firstly, the characteristics of the social environment in which the child is brought up. They form the consumer and value dominant that the child is oriented toward. Secondly, new heroes are being replaced by new ones, new professions are appearing that attract young people. The atmosphere of the Soviet Union was permeated with heroization and self-sacrifice. Currently, we are more rational and have the opportunity for alternative points of view, our own opinion, building our own trajectory of life. “
Albina Beschasnaya cites the results of the VTsIOM poll, which showed that modern young people are aware of the danger of space professions (17%), financial and reputational problems typical for the current state of this industry in Russia (14%), admit the presence of other preferences (16%).
At the same time, the professor believes that modern youth are still actively interested in space issues and are ready to work in the space industry. According to Albina Beschasnaya, this is facilitated by “a large stream of films and series devoted to fantastic stories against the background of outer space, modernized or opened planetariums equipped with modern equipment.”
Space maps tucked into tablets
In October, the International Space Station (ISS) celebrated 20 years of uninterrupted human presence in space. But the station is unlikely to exist for another 20 years. The service life of the ISS is coming to an end in 2024. At the same time, spending on space has always taken the lion’s share of the budget of the countries that finance the work of the station. People will not stop flying into space altogether, but gradually the sphere, which once belonged only to the state, will have to admit private initiatives.
Of course, this is not about the fact that everyone in their garage will be able to assemble a rocket and fly on it to Alpha Centauri, but about the form of public-private partnership in the space industry. At least this trend is gaining momentum in the United States. The legendary flying fan Howard Hughes was replaced by the ambitious and enterprising Elon Musk.
As far as Russia is concerned, here private astronautics is still in its infancy in agony. In addition to the state-owned Roscosmos, there are about ten private companies in the country, but if they can get involved in the industry, it is very indirectly. So, in 2019, the National Space Company LLC (NSC) appeared on the market, which, according to official data, is engaged in the production of light and ultralight launch vehicles, satellites, as well as the development of engines for spacecraft.
The Krasnoyarsk-based company conducts research projects in cooperation with institutes and Roskosmos. However, NCC does not yet have a license to carry out space activities, while in plans for 2021 it has no less than the launch of an ultralight launch vehicle with a payload into orbit.
The only company that managed to advance the farthest and launch a rocket was S7 Space, which is part of the S7 Group holding. The most high-profile project of the last decade was the launch of rockets from the Sea Launch. The organization appeared back in 1995 as a joint venture between RSC Energia, Boeing and Yuzhmash and was engaged in the launch of Ukrainian Zenit missiles.
In 2018, the S7 Group holding bought all the assets of Sea Launch, as well as the launch platform, which was based in California, the command ship and port infrastructure. This is how S7 Space appeared – the first private company in Russia to provide a full range of spacecraft launch services. S7 planned to use the Sea Launch site for launches of the Russian Soyuz-5 (Irtysh) rocket under development, which could compete with Ilona Mask’s Falcon. In addition, S7 was planning to develop its own spacecraft.
However, the development of the Irtysh has not yet been completed, and in the spring of 2020 S7 was forced to overtake the cosmodrome across the entire Pacific Ocean to the port of Slavyanka in the Primorsky Territory, where the conditions of detention are much more modest. Thus, against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sea Launch project was actually frozen.
Space spending was and will be the most expensive for the state. Public-private partnership could partly ease spending, but for Russia this industry has always been a territory of special importance. Therefore, even if the development of private astronautics continues, it will only follow the rules of the state itself.