Friday, July 20, 2007

A sad anniversary

Warning. Still perched atop soapbox:

Thirty-eight years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the Moon. It was supposed to be "a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind."

I believe Armstrong has long contended that he said "a man" not just "man" as the newspapers of the time (and the history books of this time) have rendered his statement as he stepped off the ladder and onto the Moon; it certainly makes more sense if he said it was a small step for a man -- himself -- and a giant leap for mankind.

Except that it hasn't been a great leap for mankind. Not yet.

After Apollo 11, only Apollos 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 made it to the Moon.

Here's the list, straight from Wikipedia of the only men to walk on the Moon:

Name Mission EVA dates
1 Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 July 20, 1969
2 Buzz Aldrin
3 Pete Conrad Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969
4 Alan Bean
5 Alan Shepard Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971
6 Edgar Mitchell
7 David Scott Apollo 15 July 31–August 2, 1971
8 James Irwin
9 John W. Young Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972
10 Charles Duke
11 Eugene Cernan Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972
12 Harrison Schmitt

Since December 14, 1972 -- 35 years ago -- a generation ago -- no man or woman from any nation has set foot on the Lunar surface. In fact, no one has left low Earth orbit in that time. Americans now occasionally drive an obsolete Space Truck (the Shuttle) to the Tool Shack in the Sky (more grandly known as the International Space Station). And multi-millionaires can ride the Russian Soyuz and play astronaut at the Tool Shack, too. (A article posted on Yahoo! News Wednesday reports that the price of such a trip is going up. It'll now cost $30 million.)

We could have done so much more than this. We should have done. So today is a sad anniversary.

President Bush has reportedly promised a return to the Moon by 2020. So maybe the anniversary of this date won't always be sad.

But, today, at least, I'm not optimistic.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Space travel does seem to have gone backwards since the seventies. We could have been so advanced by now had they continued like they did.

sari said...

Space travel seems to have gone the way of the "flying cars" and robots that I was expecting to have by now.

And you're funny, President Bush promised something? So what. :-)

Patti said...

Flying cars a la Jetsons probably won't get here until the year 2525...I agree it is sad that more advances haven't been made. Hard to believe a generation has passed.

The Curmudgeon said...

Well, Sari, you got me there: I didn't want to pile on President Bush but, frankly, the way things are at present, if he came out tomorrow in favor of apple pie I'm afraid all the apple orchards would go broke overnight. The current President's support of a revived manned space program might just do nothing except make the space program a big, fat target for the next Occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I just wish we could take the politics out of this one: There is such a thing as a policy which is so clearly in the national interest that it should transcend (be permitted to transcend) grubby politics. In this case, a meaningful manned return to space is not just in the nation's interest, it's in our interest as a species... but I was trying to get off the soapbox this afternoon.

Shelby said...

Ok - I'll bite.

Which upcoming presidential hopeful do you think is most likely to help advance this important endeavor? And why.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that we've just about forgotten this anniversary.

Dave said...

I'm going to add to Shelby's question: why?

I understand the quest part of it and the science part of it; but, don't we have enough problems, here, now and on terra firma that should be addressed with the money left over from Iraq, my soap box?

Ralph said...

In relative cost terms, going to the moon (again) is not that much. I think that in 1969 when we actually got there, the political and national will just was't there anymore. how much further could you get than the moon? That explains how our only space vehicle is the space shuttle. itself of early 1970's design. And the shuttle has to last until 2012 before the next shuttle is available. I want us to go to the moon again because we can...

Shelby said...

happy Saturday - did the birthday meme finally :)

The Curmudgeon said...

Shelby -- re: your first comment. I don't know. I haven't seen or heard any candidate in either party promote space exploration.

Has anyone else?

Dave -- your question will take me awhile to answer. But I'll have to get on the soapbox again to do it.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i just love it when you get on your soapbox curmy!

smiles, bee


Hilda said...

I'm with Dave on this one. I see no reason to spend *any* government money in the space program.

If private industry wants to finance it for research purposes that's fine, let them do it. But until all our *real* problems (the war debacle, health care, educating our children, etc., etc., etc.) are resolved, playing Star Trek with governement money is IMO irresponsible.

Barb said...

That landing is one of those "I knew where I was when" moments for those of us old enough to remember it.

I was on vacation with my mom, brother, and evil stepdad.. and we were driving across the desert on our way to Disneyland.

I grew up in Florida and anytime there was a launch, I could go out to my back yard and watch the stages of the rockets separate. We Floridians always knew when something was launched.

When I moved to Michigan though I never heard anything about them, except for maybe a quick blurb on the news.

My guess is that people just expect us to do those things and don't view them as being as amazing as they are.

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