Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 1969

At the center of the photo stands the Apollo 11 Lunar Module.

On this, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, only one thing bothers me:

The last men to step on the Moon are now old men.

Truth be told, as a kid I expected that when I became an adult, there would be cities on the Moon. I expected I'd be able to buy a ticket on a ride on some kind of space vehicle and visit those cities, perhaps live there if I wanted. I expected, at any rate, that I would be able to fly into space and see the Earth from above, as a blue-white marble hanging in a sky of black.

I'm grateful for the political expediency that led to that momentous moment on July 20, 1969. But I wish political expediency weren't so fleeting, that the urge to explore and populate the Moon had not ebbed after 1975. Six short years of exploration is a monumental, yet miniscule endeavor. Christopher Columbus made four journeys to the New World, spanning over ten years, and had many others follow him during that time as well.

Yes, there is cost involved. There is cost involved in any endeavor. But there are also benefits, many of which are left untapped.

Maybe our imaginations are smaller these days. Inthe heyday of space flight and in the heyday of technological expansion, authors like Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and others leaped the technological and societal barriers to manned space flight, to colonies in space, to the stretching of the imagination beyond what was practical into what is magical. Do we still see the magic? I don't know. Too many films these days have the explorers coming to Earth, not leaving.

I still believe. I look at the Moon nearly every night and marvel at our closest neighbor. Man walked on the Moon, and will again. I still retain the hope that I may, someday, too.

I can still dream. I can still imagine. Thanks to NASA, celebrating the 40th anniversary with this site. We also have Google Moon. And Clavius Base, where we find reason, not Moon hoaxes. We also have the immortal and snarky words of one of those grumpy old men, Eugene Cernan, who said of those who disbelieve man has walked on the Moon: "Nobody can take those footsteps I made on the surface of the moon away from me."

Me neither.

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