From the Heinlein Prize Trust archive: Robert Heinlein’s optimistic vision of the future and expansion through the solar system

Robert Heinlein was a lifelong optimist.

Robert Heinlein (Photo courtesy of the Heinlein Trust)

“Columbus sailed west for spices – and came back with Boulder Dam, Detroit and the Empire State Building. Every great new adventure of the human race has produced totally unexpected new profits,” he wrote in a 1947 letter, which the Heinlein Prize Trust’s primary trustee Art Dula shared recently with the LFS.

“The same inquisitive, questing, practical spirit that crossed the plains and conquered the air will turn up new wrinkles to make space and space flight pay,” Heinlein wrote in the letter, which Dula read from and commented on recently during the 43rd annual Prometheus awards ceremony.

“But what of that. You and I would go if there were never any dollar-and-cents reward in it. There is the greatest reason of all – the itch to go take a look.”

Robert Heinlein in 1929 as a student military cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy (Photo courtesy of Heinlein Trust)

Here are more inspiring words from Heinlein’s visionary letter, which Dula resurrected from the vast digitized Heinlein archives:

“New horizons, new lands, strange places, adventure and wonder. The long, long trail of the human race, our monkey curiosity, scientific zeal, boyish delight in the need to explore. It’s stronger than the hunger of the belly or of the lions; it brought us down out of the trees, made us experiment with fire, took us out over the frightening uncharted oceans, and up into the stratosphere- and now it calls us out in the depths of space.”

“And out we’ll go, with Galileo and Eric the Red and Columbus and Peary cheering us on, rooting for us – from the parched, airless soil of the Moon we’ll try the mists of Venus and then to the thin, cold air of Mars, and on out, even to the lonely night of Pluto – someday, even to the stars.”

Virginia and Robert Heinlein, visiting a NASA space capsule (Photo courtesy of Heinlein Prize Trust)

“But I don’t expect to see the last,” Heinlein added.

:I’ll be happy enough to see the headline in the (local Los Angeles newspaper) Herald-Express:  “Radio Contact with First Moon Party.”

Robert Heinlein in the 1980s (Photo courtesy of Heinlein Trust)

Note: Heinlein (1907-1988) lived to see the first man on the moon in 1969, the Space Shuttle missions and the development of the International Space Station.


* Read the Prometheus Blog appreciation of “Requiem,” the 2003 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner, about an aging tycoon using private enterprise to fly to the moon, realizing a lifelong dream.

Here are the Prometheus-blog Appreciations of many of Heinlein’s other Prometheus winners, all Hall of Fame inductees: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough for Love, Red Planet, Methuselah’s Children“Coventry” and Citizen of the Galaxy.


* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Watch  videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights, individuality and human dignity.

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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