The idea


The Apollo spacecraft is not a toy. The children notice it immediately when they see the battered capsule in the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Just look at the airlock! The spacecraft is one of the most reliable vehicles ever made. Constructed by engineers, who valued robustness over beauty, safety over fashion. Who put security first and the timetable second. Although they were part of an ambitious race to show the world that free societies are more inventive than non-free ones.

In our picture we find the spacecraft near the centre of the Orion nebula - one of the most creative spots we know. Star formation! Young stars have just emerged from their gas-and-dust cocoons. The nebula glows in their powerful ultraviolet light. More than 3,000 stars of all sizes are gathered in this dense place. The process of their formation has left arcs, blobs, pillars and rings of dust - shapes in space like ideas inside a mind. Our sun was born in a place like that, 4.5 billion years ago. Perhaps Mr. Raymond would have called it a bazaar.

A circle is the most beautiful form, Aristotle believed. This is where the spacecraft is headed. Perfection! We will make the best system we can. In the light of that future we see a reflection of the past. Circuit boards, wiring. Hand-assembled hardware from the 1970s. Probably the machine that started the story. The LISP machine. We remember: A community of students and programmers at the MIT. The fun of hacking. The effects of commercialization and non-disclosure agreements. And the decision of a young lab programmer to write GNU.

That was 30 years ago.

We have made quite a journey.

Ulrich Hansen, 05.03.2012