Tag Archives: the moon

Where Were You 40 Years Ago Today?

I was on the couch in our living room with my family, watching the grainy image of Neil Armstrong descending the ladder of the The Eagle lunar lander, listening to the intermittent comments he made before that famous “one small step for man …” quote. I remember my father was home early from work, marking the momentous nature of the occasion. We were among half a billion people worldwide watching with rapt attention mankind’s first steps on the moon.

And if you’re old enough to relate, you officially qualify as an Old Phart, like me. I was 14, at the time. It was one of those iconic moments that defined who were were as a country. Amid news of the Vietnam War, conflict over civil rights and the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy – eerily recalling John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963 – the lunar landing was poignant and inspiring. It made me believe, for the longest time, that anything was possible.

I found these passages from a recent Associated Press article particularly right on:

“What put man on the moon 40 years ago was an audacious and public effort that the world hasn’t seen before or since. It required rocketry that hadn’t been built, or even designed, in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy declared the challenge. It needed an advance in computerization that had not happened yet. …

In another speech, Kennedy famously said America would go to the moon and try other tasks ‘not because they were easy, but because they were hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.‘ (emphasis mine, CTH)

They weren’t just skills with rockets and slide rules. Bringing together countless aerospace companies, engineers, scientists, technicians, politicians and several NASA centers around the nation was a management challenge even more impressive than building the right type of rockets, said Smithsonian Institution space scholar Roger Launius.”

*******end citation*******

And from the same article:

“Historian Douglas Brinkley called the Apollo program “the exemplary moment of America’s we-can-do-anything attitude.” After the moon landing, America got soft, he said, looking for the quick payoff of a lottery ticket instead of the sweat-equity of buckling down and doing something hard.”

***end citation******

My thoughts: If we’ve gotten soft, the recession will probably take care of that. As a nation, by necessity, we’re getting leaner, more focused. In some ways, we’re pulling together, but will we ever be that bold again? And should we even bother?

An article in USA Today related to the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, explores the pros and cons of returning humans to the moon. Obviously one of the biggest arguments against such a mission is money. According to the article, the Obama administration will likely slash NASA’s budget in 2010. Given the recession, the nation has other more pressing priorities than manned space flight, critics say.

“Many space historians and even NASA veterans agree that the glory days of Apollo — which spawned countless songs, movies and books — can’t be recaptured. Gone is the vast budget for building spaceships. Gone is the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which unified the nation and lent urgency to the effort to put an American on the moon.”

******end citation********

Some say a manned mission to the moon would not yield enough scientific information to justify the billions a single flight would likely cost. Others, including Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, say NASA should focus on Mars instead.

My question: Is it worth undertaking a revival of manned moon flights not only for what could be learned about the universe, but as an exercise that could, in JFK’s words, “serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills?”

You tell me. Take the poll on this blog’s home page.

Thanks for your thoughts.

P.S. What does this have to do with South Kitsap? OK, you’ve got me there.