"I remember thinking the same thing ten years ago, around the time of the 30th anniversary. It still boggles my mind to think of them going to the moon with the technology of that era. The computer was just barely invented. To match the computing power of the laptop I'm writing this on in 1969 you'd probably need something the size of a house. They went to the moon without even the power of a laptop computer!!
Imagine what we could do if we had the same will power to do what they did in 1969 with the technology we have today. The ingenuity to invent new propulsion systems, advanced navigation, life support systems, imaging capabilities. etc. We'd probably be able to stay there for a year if we wanted to.
I always wonder what it is that keeps us on the ground these days. Maybe it's simply the fact that we found out that there's nothing really there. As if we spent a hell of a lot of effort and money to visit the Sahara. Maybe it's the fear of the high human cost that has plagued space exploration from the beginning. Is the risk worth the reward? The conspiracy theory could be that big business doesn't like the idea that space exploration out of necessity demands the invention of new technologies. Technologies that could threaten the existence of some of the worlds biggest corporations. Perhaps we just don't have an immediate need to go to the moon right now. Yes, we most certainly have a long term, for-the-good-of-humanity kind of need, but those needs are always pushed aside for immediate needs. In 1969 we had an immediate need to beet the Russians. I bet if Al Qaeda or North Korea were making a run for the moon, we'd be there faster than you can sing 'Fly me to the Moon!'
Bit of good news on the Space front. The two rovers that we sent to Mars at the beginning of 2004 (which they expected to be operational for only 3 or 4 months), are still operating!! 5 and a half years later!!!"
Hey, L56. Nice comment. I'm just thinking about how walking on the moon in the '60's became less important than "moonwalking" in the '80's! But anyway...
I have always felt that traveling into space was necessary because exploration and expansion of our horizons is a crucial part of human evolution, both individually and collectively. It's not just about the technology or the economics. As sentient beings of a higher order (at least on this planet!), moving beyond our borders and limitations is what prevents atrophy and stagnation in our psyches.
On this 40th anniversary of the moon landing, I remembered that in 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28th of that year, I wrote an open letter to President Reagan and the NY Times not only saying why I thought the human exploration of space must continue, in spite of that tragedy, but I also offering to go myself on a future mission! (Ha! My wife at the time cried for a number of days fearing that Reagan might actually take me up on it. She knew I would go!)
Here's my letter that the Times published on February 9, 1986:
"SPACE IS OUR DESTINY!"
"To the Editor:
The shattering tragedy of the Challenger on Jan. 28 will no doubt stir up such sentiments as 'If man were meant to fly, he'd have wings.'' Some will say that we should send only unmanned probes into space.
I disagree. Human beings do have wings. Our wings are our minds, and our minds have always compelled us to reach out and look beyond the boundaries of the observable. We honor the spirit of Christopher Columbus for daring to explore 'the edge' of a flat Earth, as we reveled in the spirit of Christa McAuliffe, who dared to teach from beyond the classroom.
The logic of statistical probability tells us that we are only one of perhaps millions of civilizations in this universe, that we most surely have brothers and sisters out there. We are compelled to meet them and know them because we are all part of the same whole. Perhaps we can be helped in our development someday by a more advanced civilization. Perhaps we can make a contribution. But we cannot stay at home, retreating into ourselves. People must be prepared to travel in space. It is our destiny.
I envied Mrs. McAuliffe. She was living out my greatest fantasy: to view the Earth as a whole planet from space. I am a psychiatric social worker, waiting for the day when a President or NASA asks for someone from the human-services field to volunteer for a similar mission. I am ready to go!"
PETER V. LOFFREDO
For more of my letters to the NY Times over the years, GO HERE.