There was the news in September that NASA had run out of plutonium to power its probes. No more deep space missions, kids. (The Russians had promised to sell some uranium to NASA, but they either lost it, or spent themselves, or just are in a wrong mood.)
This is exactly what I predicted in the children's tale I wrote four years ago. Here is a rough English translation.
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THE SPACE DREAM
In the largest city, in the very center of the Earth, there lived a little boy. He was little, very little, and the buildings around him were high, very high, and he was always scared to get lost.
Time has passed, he grew up and went to school. The school was at the other end of the city. To get there, the little boy had to take subway and then three different ground trolley lines.
The little boy was a good student: it turned out that he was very smart. The winter nights were long and cold, and while walking home from the subway station, he would always look up into the black, black sky. Millions of far, far stars shone there brightly. The little boy had a dream to become a spaceship pilot and to fly to the distant stars and planets.
At school, the little boy met a little girl. She also liked to look at the night sky, and so they quickly became friends.
“You know what,” the little boy told her one day, “I had enough of our school. I am bored. I have learned everything there was to learn. I want to work as a spaceship pilot.”
“Look at you, you are just a little boy,” said the girl. “They won't accept you.”
“Maybe you are right and they won't accept me as a pilot,” said the boy. “But this is not the end of the world. There are many other ways to work for the space.”
The girl could not argue with that. She put on her most beautiful dress, and they went to the Department of Space together, holding their hands.
“Good morning,” said the boy. “I was dreaming about the space all my life. I want to get the job of a spaceship pilot.”
The people at the Department looked at him carefully.
“You know what, little boy,” they told him, “you are too little. You don't even have a driver's license. We can't make you a pilot. But still, we are so glad to have you here. We have a lot of work, and we really need the help of the people who were dreaming about space all their life. Do you accept?”
Of course, the little boy accepted right away. The children were immediately put on a large plane with shining wings and sent to his new job: to mine uranium, which was used to fuel spaceships.
The little boy never flew in a plane before, and he was very curious. He spent the entire trip looking at the window. The girl meanwhile was daydreaming. She imagined how they would buy a nice house. She would sit by the fireplace, look at the fire, and wait for the little boy to come home from work. The girl liked very much to look at the fire.
The plane was flying for many hours, and then landed in the middle of nowhere. A bus came and took the children to the uranium mine. The little boy worked as hard as he could. Soon, he got paid, and they bought a little house not far from the mine. In front of the house there was a garden. Beautiful flowers grew there. Unfortunately the house was very little. It didn't even have a fireplace. Every day the girl sat home, waited for the boy to come from work, and felt very lonely. Soon she also went to work at the mine, helping the space.
Many people worked at the mine. There were other children, there were adults, there were even a few world-famous scientists. They also were dreaming about the space all their lives, and realized that it was more important to mine uranium than to look in their telescopes and publish clever papers in scientific journals.
The little boy enjoyed his work. It was interesting but not hard. He just had to stand in the mine and to put uranium into a rail car with the shovel. The little boy knew that his girl was standing in the next tunnel and was likewise working with a shovel, and it made him happy. The little boy's legs started to get numb after the long days spent standing in the mine. The little boy bought himself a unicycle to exercise his legs, and rode it on the weekends. Sometimes he even juggled apples while riding his unicycle. The girl looked at him and clapped her hands.
At night, they looked up into the black, black sky. Millions of far, far stars shone there brightly, and spaceships flew there to the other planets. The uranium mined by the boy and the girl burned brightly in their engines.
One day, a manager from the city came to the mine. He was dressed nicely in a white shirt, black suit and a tie, and he looked very worried.
“All other mines have run out of uranium,” said he. “There is no fuel for spaceships.”
The workers looked down into the mine, and they saw that there was very little uranium left. The mine bottom was barely covered. The manager sighed sadly, didn't say a word, turned around and left. Nobody saw him again. He must have gone back to the city.
The workers dug all the remaining uranium and piled it next to the mine. Nobody came to collect it. The little boy understood then that he would never be a pilot anymore. Never will he fly to the other planets and to the distant stars. He got a can of gasoline, poured it over their little house and set it on fire. The house burned brightly, until it finally burned down to ashes. The girl was looking at the fire and clapping her hands.
There was no more work left at the mine, and it got closed. The little boy has found a job with a traveling circus. These days, he rides around the arena in his unicycle and juggles apples. The girl always sits at the first row and claps her hands.
And every night they hold their hands and look up into the black, black sky. Millions of far, far stars shine there brightly. But they can't see any spaceships anymore.