Monday, July 23, 2007
One Giant Leap...To Where?
This past Friday an anniversary came and went without much fanfare. 38 years ago most of the world was riveted to television screens as something never before attempted by man was broadcast around the world. The United States of America, personified by Neil Armstrong, made good on a challenge put forth by an American president to send a man to the moon. Armstrong stepped off the ladder and into history with words remembered by most Americans and a good portion of the world’s population.
That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for man kind.
Man has always looked to the stars as the Final Frontier. Armstrong’s leap was supposed to be a stepping stone into the exciting exploration of space. Several men followed in his boot prints. The Apollo astronauts walked as Gods among men in America’s pop culture. Far off places like Mars were within our reach – or so it seemed.
Then, as best as I can tell, America got bored. Spaceflight became routine to the point that the ill-fated Apollo XIII mission (immortalized by a the movie with the same name) wasn’t even broadcast on television. The networks evidently said NASA had made going to the moon about as exciting as “driving to Pittsburgh”.
Roughly four years later, Eugene Cernan gained the infamous notoriety of being the last man to walk on the surface of the moon.
So, what has NASA done since? It still attracts America’s bravest and brightest minds, but nobody has left orbit since Cernan’s capsule splashed down in December of 1972. Much was made of the America’s Shuttle fleet – the first reusable spacecraft – but those vehicles have far outlasted their original designed lifetime and mission not to mention far exceeded the cost they were supposed to bring down.
I don’t mean to deride the accomplishments of today’s astronauts. They go places and do things guys like me only dream about – but something tells me they’d rather have a far off destination than endlessly circling the globe at an altitude of 200+ miles. The question remains: When will we go back to the Moon?
Eric Jones attempts to answer this question. He’s got the facts and figures to back up his statements but the basic answer to the question above is pretty simple: We’ll go back when it becomes a national priority to do so. In short, Jones says:
…we might hasten our return to the Moon if we become a bit less cynical, a bit more mindful of the old maxims about preparing for tomorrow, and, in the process, manage to rediscover our old fascination with the frontier. We shall see.I believe there is an instinct deep in the soul of mankind which requires us to reach beyond what we have already accomplished and go beyond where we have already been. I wonder how long it will be before the need to explore again permeates the American psyche and compels us again to reach for the stars and take our place among them.
Not too long, I hope. I’d like to be around when man again walks on the Moon and planets beyond.
Here endeth the lesson.