Today: July 20th, 2009. The 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The very first time mankind walked on the Moon. From liftoff,
to walking down the lunar landing module for the first time,
to some of the most iconic images in all of human history:
It brings up a sense of wonder unlike any other before. This video by the onion is so funny to me because it really does capture that sense of awesomeness, and just how blown away those twelve men who got to walk on the Moon must have been:
Going to the Moon was risky. Six astronauts were killed — three in flight training and three in a launch pad fire — in NASA’s space program from 1964 to 1967. Disasters happened, and the great risks continued to be undertaken because the reward — the chance to push the frontiers of what we could do and walk on the Moon — was worth it.
And we did it. We walked on that Moon, and we did it six times. I even got to meet the next-to-last man (and the only civilian) who did it, Harrison Schmitt. But think about this. Think about the names of astronauts. Who comes to mind? John Glenn? Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin? Alan Shepard? Maybe even Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space? These are all names from the 1960s! Maybe you’ll remember Sally Ride as the first woman in space, or someone like Ronald McNair, who was a casualty of the Challenger disaster, but how many of you can name even one active astronaut today?
In making decisions about space exploration that focus solely on scientific merit, NASA has lost sight of this basic fact: we are human beings, with dreams of exploration, adventure, and of being the first to reach new frontiers. It’s 40 years later, and humans haven’t visited one single moon, asteroid, planet, or even comet in my lifetime. No wonder so many people think that NASA’s a waste; what has NASA done recently that inspires the average person?
What would I do? Forget about going back to the Moon; we’ve done that and it isn’t interesting anymore. Let’s set our sights on something larger: Mars is the obvious choice. While manned missions are risky and many proposals say they’re likely to be one-way, so what? We would never be celebrating our great achievement of landing on the Moon if we weren’t willing to continue stepping forward despite our hearts being in our throats. I’m willing to bet that there are even some of you who would volunteer to go to Mars, even if it meant that there was a one-in-three chance that you’d die before ever setting foot on it and a 100% chance that you’d never return to Earth. How much would it cost? $10 billion? $50 billion? In the context of current times, isn’t it worth that drop in the bucket to inspire the world about what humanity can accomplish again, just like we did 40 years ago?
There’s so much to say about our trip to the Moon and what might come next, that you owe it to yourself to check out this week’s Carnival of Space, which focuses on the Moon and thoughts, memories, and interesting facts about it from over 25 space writers from around the world. And if any of you have thoughts, memories, or just a story to share, that’s what comments are for! Happy Moonday!