Thursday, October 06, 2005
As I sit here typing away on my home computer that would have never have been possible if it wasn't for the space program, knocking on the door to my 4th decade on this tiny insignificant planet in this vast universe I have to sit and wonder sometimes. Why did we do it? Why did we decide to go to the moon? Oh, sure it was a lot of reasons like beating the Soviets... That was a big reason. Sputnik kicked us in the nuts collectively as a nation and the Cold War being the Cold War, we just HAD to beat those damn Reds...
But I look at it with a different slant. Why did we go to the moon?
Because we could. And because we had to.
And if we can really reach the moon, some 250,000 miles away in the vacuum of space, well, we can do anything. Not as a country, not that at all, but as human kind.
I remember vividly the night of July 20th, 1969 at 10:56 PM, EDT, sitting on the floor of my living room with my brother and the rest of my siblings and parents watching Neil Armstrong take that one "Small step for man, one giant leap for mankind..."
Yes, I was only four years old, but I still have that fuzzy black and white image indelibly etched into my memory from our old Philco B&W TV. It was the only time I remember my parents letting me stay up that late. We were watching with the rest of the world, and for a small sliver of time we were all there on the Sea of Tranquility taking those first timid steps with Neil.
Now NASA is planning a return to the moon. About Goddamn time. We should have never stopped going the first place in my mind. Just imagine where we could have been now if we had never stopped. Think of all the every day things we have now that we wouldn't have if it weren't for the space program. Home computers, cell phones, pocket calculators the size of credit cards... Digital music and photography. The weather and communications satellites that orbit our little orb and warn us of the dangers of storms and connect us with friends and family all over the world, the internet itself is partly the child of the space program, not Al Gore.
We all owe our thanks to those rocket scientists at NASA, North American, Grumman, Sperry, Lockheed and other contractors all over our country who made it all possible.
But still every day I hear talk on the radio that NASA shouldn't be doing this. It's to expensive, but pound-for-pound, the old Saturn V rockets cost half of what it takes to launch the Shuttle into high-earth orbit. NASA's plan is still within their yearly budget, not a dime more. Let the Europeans keep the ISS and we'll look further. It's too expensive and really, is it getting us anywhere other than high-earth orbit? Or better yet, let everyone join in the great adventure and we can get to the stars not as one country,truly as one people.
I must ask you this, what would have happened if Queen Isabella ignored Christopher Columbus? Where would be now?
As President Kennedy said, "We chose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..."
Humans are a naturally curious species. From the first prehistoric man to tame fire one cold and blustery night to keep his tribe warm to Neil Armstrong riding a flame to the moon, and beyond.
If we're to survive as a species we must look to the stars. In about a million years or so from now our life giving sun will die out, taking all life on our little planet with it. We must look out for the long haul, to the moon, then Mars and eventually the stars.
It won't be in our lifetimes, maybe not even in our grandchildren's lifetimes. And it won't be easy either, and there will be other setback and disasters along the way. But we have to keep pursuing the stars. Two hundred, maybe three hundred years from now one of us will one day set foot on a planet in another star system.
It's our destiny.
Maybe also it will give our youth something other than rap stars spewing their garbage and overpaid, steroid-taking athletes to look up to.
A new age of true heroes to follow the heroes of my youth....
But we need to keep looking toward the stars... I do every night at work and wonder what might be, what could be, and I like what I imagine. I will probably never see it, but it would be nice to know somewhere deep in my heart that we will get there someday.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden