Richard Branson’s and Jeff Bezos’ ventures into area tapped right into a perennial fascination with manned area journey that dates again to the Apollo moon program within the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s and even to the Nineteenth-century novels of Jules Verne. However as a historian of globalization and know-how, I feel in centuries. I see robust parallels between in the present day’s billionaire area race and the Viking raiders and explorers of the Center Ages.
These males and women weren’t solely the precursors of globalization, however the non secular ancestors of the entrepreneurs who see outer area as a realm for scientific experiments, industrial improvement and the beginning of a brand new chapter in historical past.
The Vikings have been related to area earlier than, as with the grossly misnamed Viking 1 and a couple of robotic Mars probes within the Seventies. I say misnamed as a result of the true attraction of the Vikings is our fascination with the prospect of human beings exploring the unknown. Mr. Bezos, Mr. Branson, Elon Musk; Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and the area shuttle crews, in addition to explorers like Columbus faucet right into a common have to admire and honor those that threat their lives to enterprise into uncharted territory and stretch the boundaries of the unknown.
Our present crop of new-space billionaires have muscled authorities apart, revolutionizing the area business with methods like SpaceX’s a number of small satellite tv for pc launches and supersonic retropulsion know-how for touchdown spacecraft in atmosphere-thin environments like Mars. To them, area represents the final nice frontier for daring new initiatives. It additionally represents a spot the place the Viking spirit has discovered a brand new mission and a brand new residence.
Viking raids have been additionally primarily private-sector enterprises. Voyages have been undertaken by particular person chieftains and heads of households, generally with not more than 30 warriors on a ship at a time. The primary recorded profitable assault on the English shoreline, at Portland in 789, consisted of solely three longships. They turned the know-how of sail- and oar-powered longships right into a instrument for constructing wealth, remodeling civilization within the course of. From 790 to roughly 1000, boatloads of Danish and Norwegian adventurers set out each spring to descend on Europe’s littoral from the North Sea to the Mediterranean—whereas their Swedish counterparts used river routes to penetrate deep into northeastern Europe and Russia, reaching as far south as Constantinople.