Why we should all be concerned by Bloodhound’s demise

secret engineerThe demise of Bloodhound SSC is a worrying sign that we no longer dare to dream writes our anonymous blogger. 

Everything was going fine for the run up to Christmas in the Secret Engineer household; at least until I received the news that Bloodhound SSC had, after a few rocky years, finally come to an end as a project.

Final checks before Bloodhound's first run
Final checks before Bloodhound’s first public run in October 2017. Image: Bloodhound

Breaking records has always been difficult so the odds were stacked against them (just look at all those who have started with grand schemes and failed since Thrust 2 took the honours) but to have got the car 90% there and running, then to fall at this late stage is such a shame. Although hardly on the same level as plague or famine, I do think it is yet another sign that humanity is losing its way.

Most items that we design and produce have a finite life due to fashion, entropy or progress driven obsolescence. This is the way of things and why we no longer live in caves or commute by steam powered train. It is what has brought humanity to our current position and it’s fine so long as the replacement at any given time is markedly better.

Of course there will always be false starts, dead ends and stuff that is just too advanced for current technology to support: but this is still a fundamental part of how we move forward as a species. We try, we sometimes fail but we always move on.

With the the loss of Concorde and the Space Shuttle without conspicuously better replacements, and now Bloodhound seemingly forever to be denied its place in history, I believe we are stepping back from our destiny rather than moving towards it.

The Shuttle and Concorde do not represent perfection, and in fact had notable problems but they were projects that were ground breaking and seemed like science fiction come to life when they first flew. They inspired me and, I’m sure, many others with regard to what we did with our lives. What is more they represented a game changing move forwards. The problem isn’t that their time has gone but rather that they were not replaced with something equally inspirational.

Whether you think that the achievement of superlatives is a distraction or not the fact remains that they fire the imagination and expand the concept of what is possible

Of course this need not be purely about speed and flames, but it does need to be something that captures the imagination. For example, electric cars may be seen as the way forward but where are the pioneers and heroes to bring interest and glamour to them? Do you know what the current electric car speed record is or who set it without recourse to the interweb?

There are, I think two problems illustrated by all this. The first is the need for grand projects – community and commercial organisations leading the way with conspicuous agendas for advancement. The second is to create or drive a public interest that means those who work away in their sheds all over the world, and who are excelling in their chosen area of expertise, have their exploits covered and promoted.

Whether you think that the achievement of superlatives is a distraction or not the fact remains that they fire the imagination and expand the concept of what is possible. Humanity as a whole survives and prospers through following where the pioneers lead. Bloodhound is significant because of the ephemeral as well as physical. It gives a real life demonstration of the finer aspects of humanity and life – it sets a focus on our most admirable traits. It is the application of knowledge, skill and courage in the pursuit of a goal purely for the sake of attainment.

Bloodhound SSC was in fact primarily an educational venture that sought to inspire children to follow careers in engineering and science, i.e. those who may eventually unlock the door to “clean energy” or higher efficiency in the use of our raw materials. For the sake of the future I hope that the times we are living in are merely a blip and once more the world wakes up to the need to encourage following generations in the pursuit of excellence. Either way we should be concerned about Bloodhound’s stillbirth because the subsequent thwarting of potential isn’t just limited to the car itself.