Remembering Apollo 11

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and in a few days it will be the anniversary of the first moonwalk.

I imagine that most of you weren’t born yet, but I recall both of those events. I was 4 years old at the time, and the quality of those first televised images from the moon was pretty grainy, but I remember it, and I’m thankful my grandmother sat me down in front of the TV that day and threatened to beat me if I wasn’t quiet.

I’m glad I remember it, because the Apollo program proved that when mankind applies its talents we can achieve great things. It was a time of optimism, and vision, and a belief that with technology, anything was possible. It seemed obvious to us that by the time I became an adult, on the weekends we’d all be driving our hover cars to the spaceport to catch a flight to the Sea of Tranquility for some R&R.

Of course, just a few years later, the Apollo program was dismantled. Having accomplished our real objective of beating the Russians in the race to the moon, the government lost interest and turned to more important things – like beating the Russians in the race to see who could have the most missiles. Since then, we’ve seen NASA change from the place where the best and brightest go to push back the horizon, to being a place where every launch knocks another piece off the shuttle and makes reentry a crap shoot, and weird kidnappers go to get astronaut diapers. I heard today on NPR that American astronauts will soon have to get rides from other countries to take them into orbit. That’s right – our astronauts are now that guy - probably bumming freeze dried ice cream off the Cosmonauts, and crashing on the couch at the International Space Station.

Where are the Buzz Aldrins and Neil Armstrongs of this generation? We need those men, and not just to beat the Russians to Mars. We actually need them to survive. You see, we, as a species, need to believe that we can overcome what we face. I’m struck by the irony of the bumper stickers all over town that say “Yes We Can” when it’s clear we don’t believe that anymore. Look at the news - we can’t seem to do anything about global climate change, we can’t solve our energy problems, we can’t seem to feed everybody, we can’t give everyone medical care – hell, we can’t even get our banking system to work properly anymore. Take swine flu as an example. World wide a few hundred people get the piggie sniffles and we start to act like it’s fucking judgment day. Epidemiologists and health policy makers wring their hands and tell us there is nothing much we can do but cancel school and hand out Tamiflu. Back in the 1950s, when polio was taking down over 50,000 Americans a year, Jonas Saulk and his crew at the University of Pittsburgh didn’t get all whiny – they just kicked that virus’s ass. Oh sure, it’s illegal to experiment on institutionalized children like they did, but that’s just nitpicking – the point is they believed they could do it, and that’s the kind of thinking that will keep man alive long after we have burned this little rock to a crisp. If the Republicans really oppose cap and trade, they should support the expansion of the space program – ‘cuz where else are you gonna’ go when the ozone layer is smoked?

Go to NASA’s website and watch the videos of the original landing. We took that one giant leap 40 years ago, and it’s about time for more. I want Obama to parallel Kennedy and set some deadlines. I want us to go back to the moon, I want us to establish colonies, and I want us to go on to Mars. I want the spirit of innovation and perseverance that was once the hallmark of humanity to be rekindled. I want us to explore, simply because it’s what humans have always done. I want us to embrace our destiny and leave this cradle. And most of all, I want my damn hover car!

7 comments:

Sci Fi Heroine said...

Right. Hover-car. Working on it.

Ducky said...

Can I be a space cowboy? I think I'd rock that shit.

Marougal said...

So eloquent...Think about an idea for a book. You have blogged about so many. Perhaps a social commentary, that is relevant yet funny.

His Sinfulness said...

You know that a project like that would kill this blog, right? :/

Marougal said...

Oh...well in that case, forget about fame and fortune. ;)
I enjoy reading your blog as it is, it was just a thought.

Inday said...

I was a polio pioneer when I was in grade school. I still have the button to show in a scrapbook my mother kept for me.
Later, during a summer break from my math studies at UW, I was a summer intern for NASA down in Huntsville, Alabama, where I had a miniscule part in the Saturn 5 program. Just seeing that gigantic rocket was mind blowing.
Now, I don't know if our government could duplicate the effort of either of those things. Makes you think!!

His Sinfulness said...

Thanks for your input, Inday. It does make you wonder where our drive as a nation went...

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