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:
|1||Neil Armstrong||Apollo 11||July 20, 1969|
|3||Pete Conrad||Apollo 12||November 19-20, 1969|
|5||Alan Shepard||Apollo 14||February 5-6, 1971|
|7||David Scott||Apollo 15||July 31–August 2, 1971|
|9||John W. Young||Apollo 16||April 21-23, 1972|
|11||Eugene Cernan||Apollo 17||December 11-14, 1972|
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 Space.com 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.