Oh, no, there’ll be a Space Age some day, perhaps thirty, forty, or even fifty years from now, and when it comes it will be a real Space Age! But it will depend on the development of some new form of propulsion. The main trouble with the present system – all those gigantic rockets sailing up off the launch pads consuming tons of fuel for every foot of altitude – is that it just hasn’t got anything to do with space travel. The number of astronauts who have gone into orbit after the expenditure of this great ocean of rocket fuel is small to the point of being ludicrous. And that sums it all up. You can’t have a real Space Age from which 99.999 per cent of the human race is excluded.

Far more real – and we don’t have to wait fifty years for it – is the invisible Space Age, which exists already; the communications satellites, literally thousands of them, television relay systems, spy satellites, weather satellites. These are all changing our lives in a way that the average person doesn’t yet comprehend. The ability to pass information around from one point in the globe to another in vast quantities and at stupendous speeds, the ability to process information by fantastically powerful computers, the intrusion of electronic data processing in whatever form into all our lives is far, far more significant than all the rocket launches, all the planetary probes, every footprint or tyremark on the lunar surface.

‘The Space Age is Over’: J. G. Ballard, interview with Christopher Evans, 1979, in Simon Sellars & Dan O’Hara (eds.) Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J. G. Ballard 1967-2008 (Fourth Estate, 2012).Gagrina

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