Wow! Fifty years ago! I was 16 that year. We lived in Texas. The evening that the amazing footage of Apollo 11 landing on the moon and Neil Armstrongs famous footsteps aired on television I was standing in line with my friends to buy a ticket to a movie. I no longer remember what movie we saw, but I vividly recall watching the grainy black & white televisions that were mounted in the ticket booth and in the theatre lobby. Everything and everyone came to a complete halt and we all goggled as we watched history being made. I was such a science fiction fiend that this was especially huge for me. And it was actually kind of mind boggling for a little while. This was science fiction come to life! Wow!
I think anyone over the age of 5 probably remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing at that moment. And I find that both incredible and impressive. We have lived here for just over 3 years and I still cannot for the life of me remember our home phone number but I just this minute remembered what movie it was my friends and I went to see that night. It was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". If I think about it a little longer, I might remember what I was wearing. It is just a crystal clear memory that it might just as well have been last week instead of half a century ago.
It was such an exciting event. It felt life altering. It seemed as if life, as we know it, would never be the same again. The Future or Bust was the prevailing mood. Science fiction books were more popular than ever before, the genre spread out into movies and television. The sci-fi specific vocabulary became part of the normal vernacular. Without that moment, I have doubts that Star Trek or Star Wars would ever have happened. Can you imagine?
But then, of course, we didn't return. To the moon I mean. Which I always thought was kind of strange. At the time of the moon landing, there was talk of finding ways to create colonies on the moon. People debated endlessly and with either excitement and/or trepidation the idea of these colonies and what it would mean. Picture it: Children born and raised on the moon! Exotic vacations to the moon! Harnessing solar energy from the moon! Ideas were bandied about with abandon. It was a moment in time when it felt like anything was possible.
And then, and then, and then.......we haven't been back. Kind of disappointing really. Fifty years ago, I suspect that we all just assumed that by now it would be a rather ordinary thing to hop a quick flight to the moon. Not much different than a flight from the US to, let's say, Australia. But, nope.
It was particularly disappointing to people like me, science fiction nerds, space cadets. I was so into it, I should be embarrassed, but I'm not. When we lived in San Diego, from 1st to 3rd grade for me, I went on a school trip to Mount Palomar, an observatory high in the California mountains. I never got over that trip. I had long been a sky watcher anyway, so to find out that some people do this as a job???? It was thrilling beyond words can ever describe. I got to repeat and expand that experience in college when I made it a point to take Astronomy as one of my science courses. In the dead of winter, in Connecticut, we would stand on the roof of the school, joyfully freezing our fannies off, talking about stars and galaxies and nebulas and black holes while turns looking through a real quality telescope, night after night after night. My imagination ran wild.
I'm going to assume that money has been the biggest hindrance for forward motion regarding conquering space. That's what they called it back then. Conquering Space! Sounds very warrior-like and almost noble, doesn't it? But it doesn't matter because it didn't happen. After awhile, people kind of lost interest in space exploration. There was a rather vocal group who felt that the enormous cost of these projects could be better used right here on our planet instead. Another, even more vocal group, declared that it never happened at all. We didn't go to space, we didn't land on the moon and that it was all trick photography, shot on a Hollywood set. A third group denounced space exploration as an affront to God and warned of dire consequences if we did not heed their warnings. And time marched on.
About 15 years or so ago, Tim and I visited Cape Canaveral. It re-ignited my fascination with all things space (not necessarily spacey). We were lucky enough to have accidentally timed our trip with the preparation for a new launch. We saw that enormous flatbed that carries the craft from Point A to Point B at a snail's crawl. We saw the mock-up of the Apollo launch. We prowled the museum exhibits and displays for hours and we were utterly captivated by it all.
I remember reading about the experimental biodomes and biospheres that everyone assumed would allow the Moon (and eventually other planets) to be colonized. We saw it in movies and read about it in books. We were so sure it was going to happen.
It's certainly not a new idea. The first mention of a moon colony that I'm aware of was all the way back in 1638. Bishop John Wilkins wrote about his predictions of colonizing the moon. Sorry, Bishop Wilkins, here is it 300+ years later and nope.
It started to feel far more possible in 1954 when science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke wrote with remarkable detail what those moon colonies were like. It was as if he were reporting something that had already happened.
I was encouraged to read that there is a NASA plan to return to the moon in 2024. The cost of course is in the billions with a B. I have no idea what plans other countries have that may be similar but I do know that China, Russia and the US are especially interested. They always have been. Back in the day, it was called the "Space Race". Each country wanted to be the one that got to the moon first.
Maybe that was where it all went wrong. Instead of insisting on being the first country to land on the moon, perhaps it should have been a group effort. We could have been the first world to land a human being on the moon instead of the first country. By thinking more globally we cold pool money, training, research and all of our scientific knowledge and aspirations and this amazing universe could finally be known to us. By checking egos at the door, we maybe could walk through a brand new doorway into the future. And maybe that future starts with a colony on the moon.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.