Government Watch / History & Culture / Opinion

To the Moon – and Beyond

Moon
Buzz Aldrin salutes the first American flag erected on the Moon, July 21, 1969.

Americans are going back to the moon – and soon, then beyond. Some doubt our staying power, but smart money sees human permanence on Mars. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon 53 years ago, many recall Armstrong’s words – “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin’s first were “magnificent desolation.” What both saw was – the future.

Today, more than during Cold War days, we have options. We have better computers, avionics, robotics, nanotechnology, ways to jettison, personalized medicine. We could do anything and nothing, go out to the moon in person or let some R2-D2 cousin send back a digital postcard.

We have a soft culture, too – one that thinks virtual is real, digital is all we need, we can explore anything from the couch, then tweet what we felt imagining we did something we did not. The risk of softness and digital fantasy is that we lose reality, and the reward of risks taken.

Reality is undervalued. We need to up-value it again. We are not just overdue to explore the universe for survival of the species and science, but for curiosity, thrill of flight and sight, moon dust under boots, getting beyond where we are, the unknown and our theological roots.

We are overdue to understand that life is not in that mobile phone, flat screen television, or dreaming we might have done what we dared not, because it was too hard for our flabby modern “comfort zone.” What did JFK say? “We do these things…because they are hard.”

That is who Americans have always been, and humans – think Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Leaf Erickson, Ernest Shackleton, Henry Hudson, the Pilgrims, pioneers, those who make us stop and wonder – how they did what in their day seemed impossible.

We are a species that, in the words of Buzz Aldrin, must “reach outward.” Race, riches, and Earthbound differences are irrelevant – when you look at them from the moon. We lose that understanding, perspective on ourselves, if we do not go the distance, physically and psychologically, then pause to look back at where we have come from, gotten to.

Why is space tourism, another event Aldrin predicted decades ago, happening now? Because there is something transcendent about taking that risk to look back on Earth, reward in reaching up, outward, understanding that we live but once – get returns only on what we risk.

Why did Edmund Hilary attempt – and crest – Mount Everest? Why did divers go down to the Titanic? Why do we press the frontiers of science every day, in medicine, communication, transportation, defense, the unknown? Because it is destiny, in our DNA – defines us.

So, we are again headed for the moon. This time with more focus, less hoopla, but an eye on permanence, not sheer thrill but to persist over time, begin the process of island-hopping into the universe. Studies have been done on travel, survival, and permanence – now we do it.

And this is the real bit, thing people are not thinking hard enough on. America is the vanguard, culture that defended – at the front end – everything from human rights to space travel, individual liberties to equality, that pushes against “no, you cannot” with “yes, we will.”

We did that as humanity’s first nation built on ideals, not on origin; we redefined normal and still do. We twice saved Europe from self-immolation. We flew the Atlantic in a light plane.

And we went to the moon – with human daring, confidence of a sort that inspires, computers capable of one one-millionth (literally) an iPhone’s capacity. How did we do that? With conviction, unshakable conviction – that achievement was worth risk.

Do you know what, too? Partisanship, domestic politics, all the modern distractions were laid aside, meant nothing to Americans that could rival that singular effort, that overarching goal, belief in ourselves, and idea that those who dare win the day.

So here we are – heading back to the moon – only distracted, divided, tired and retired, not attracted to the risk, not recalling that ONLY those who dare to fail – will ultimately succeed. 

We seem to have forgotten that the moon is a destination and waystation, stopping off point to Mars, itself a waystation to Beyond. This is what the future looks like, what our culture and the species need to persist, the appetite for exploration, discovery, daring the Unknown.

As we prepare to see men and women heading for the moon, something deep inside us all should thrill again to this mission, what it means now, but more to “long from now.” If we can be excited about preserving Earth, we must be equally excited for what lies beyond.

As this year closes, and we begin years of resumed human space exploration, take a moment to celebrate what we forget – that inner draw to explore, what got us here, and what lies ahead.

Humans are a daring lot, curious and intrepid. Americans have been that in spades. Some will yawn at the courage, risk, and reward from such missions – to the moon and Beyond. But not the smart money, not those in touch with who we are. They know the future calls, and we are there.

May we move from that “giant leap” and “magnificent desolation” to bigger leaps, and without hesitation. It is part of our destiny, humans’ and America’s – always has been.

So, get up off the couch tonight, go outside, and look up. Leave the remote behind. Look with me to that orb from where Neil and Buzz looked back. Dream for a moment – about where risk leads, what the universe holds for the bold, and see – as they once did – The Future. Then smile. It is coming. 


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Rich
2 months ago

Unfortunately “yes we will” is not in the present administrations vocabulary unless you’re talking about a radical agenda. Why do we want to occupy and screw up another planet? Some want to find the answer to “where have we come from” and cannot figure out what gender they presently are. Exploring other planets is only an exercise for those who have many questions they can’t seem to answer and would never be economically feasible to export minerals or other products to the earth. Have we made many advances from space exploration, sure, but at what cost? Having said all that, there are many politicians that I would like to send into outer space, but then we would be sure to screw up another planet.

Janet
2 months ago

Those who know this saying are looking up and to the future, “There will be wonders in the ski above and in the earth beneath.” And, “When you see these happening know……..!”

John D. Beach
2 months ago

It is unjust and abusive to waste money on “space exploration” while American citizens, by the hundreds of thousands are homeless, drug-addicted, millions are victimized by debt, and at the mercy of a government that can not stop throwing money away on corrupt, lost causes. Kennedy, as all Americans, at the time, sensed the threat of Soviet domination and the potential for the weaponization of space, something that we could not live with. Those days are over. We need to have a purposeful refocussing of efforts and resources to improve the quality of life for Americans who have been marginalized by wasteful, government policies, particularly, those of the Democrat-controlled, inner-cities which are crime-ridden and a blight on the country.

SAW
2 months ago
Reply to  John D. Beach

I certainly sympathize with your comments and believe you are spot on with the current issues in this world. Unfortunately, it seems that human evolution throughout history has always been filled with the things you note above and then some.
I do enjoy those entrepreneurs (Musk) dreaming and then acting on their dreams for all humanities sake. A person of tremendous wealth that wants to explore space travel titillates me just as it did watching as a child on our black and white TV in the 60’s!

Take care.

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  John D. Beach

You write “Kennedy, as all Americans, at the time, sensed the threat of Soviet domination and the potential for the weaponization of space, something that we could not live with. Those days are over.” I hate to burst your bubble but both China and Russia continue to advance their means to weaponize space for their own advantage. Both China and Russia have already demonstrated their means to attack and destroy our satellites in orbit around the earth that both provide commericial communications capabilities, as well as national defense early warning, communication and missile guidance capabilities. While we on the other hand continue to ignore the growing threat much as did before other past conflicts in the past.

NASA is no longer in the manned flight business, other than providing access to their launch facilities and some administrative tasks. During the Obama years, NASA’s mission was essentially retasked to basically certain educational things and limited unmanned satellite activities. Private enterprise is doing all the research and development on any manned space travel at this point. In practical terms, they are decades away from practical space travel to Mars at the rate things are progressing. Sure we can stick a 9 or 10 astronauts in what is planned for 2034 or 2035 and launched them towards Mars using current technology, but everyone involved understands that would be a symbolic, one-way mission with a very bad ending.

As for the old “wouldn’t things be grand if the government would just stop wasting money on so many bad polices and wasteful things”, that is a nice thought but government, by its very nature, is an exercise in controlled inefficiency and waste. Government generally does nothing well, which is why its size and scope should have been kept very small. Good luck stuffing the toothpaste back in the tube at this point. Both Woodrow Wilson and FDR of course took care of that and expanded the size and scope of the federal government well beyond its intended purpose. LBJ, with his War on Poverty and other social experiments, just put the cherry on top of the sh*t sundae. Today the federal government is a total mess that is completely unmanageable and unaccountable to the public it supposedly serves.

Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  John D. Beach

Well let’s not send our tax dollars to fund someone else’s war , Ukrainian , comes to mind, that trillions of dollars that we supply for their war could be used for the concerns you have.

T smith
2 months ago

We could have done it long ago, but certain people insisted that we waste trillions of dollars for social programs that made things worse instead of better.

David Millikan
2 months ago

We would have been living on the moon in the ‘70’s and on Mars in the ‘80’s if the FASCIST liberals hadn’t KILLED our Space Program.
Here we are 50 years later and the FASCIST liberals still KILLING our Space Program.
Why? So they can put us in WARS and GIVE ALL of our Taxes to their ILLEGAL ALIEN TERRORIST INVASION.
Nothing has changed in 50 years except MORE ILLEGAL ALIENS AND MORE WARS.
All compliments of FASCIST liberals.
So much for retiring on Mars.

Morbious
2 months ago

Sounds cool… till you discuss details. So the moon a way station to mars? Just because a marketing genius thinks living on mars makes sense doesnt make it feasible. I know what happens after mere weeks of immobility. Muscles shrink to wisps. Rebuilding takes months. Every single thing needed there must be flown from here using jet propulsion and risky landings. What the hell will people do there but sit around, anyway. Look for gold? Diamonds? What if martian water is not accessible.? We accomplished what was realistic fifty years ago. Until tech advances bring us star trek speeds this is all bb brained fantasy. Well, wheres the harm in that? Its yet another distraction to feed the middle class as their substance is eaten out.

MariaRose
2 months ago
Reply to  Morbious

So @Morbious, humans living in other places beyond Earth are merely science fiction fantasies. The only thing holding us back is the elitist viewpoint that space travel and living are only available to them and not the masses.

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  MariaRose

Actually what is holding us back is the lack of current or near-term technology to allow us to travel on an inter-planetary scale within our own solar system. It’s NOT a function of elitists versus the masses at this point. We need a means to travel at least 4X to 5X faster than we currently have a means of achieving with current technology. That entails a whole new type of propulsion system to achieve and sustain those velocities for months at a time there and back. That also entails likely a nuclear power source.

The primitive type rocket motor designs still being used today, since the early 1970s, won’t cut it to get to Mars and then return. Eighty to 90% percent of the liquid fuel used to launch an inter-planetary ship would be expended just to achieve escape velocity from Earth’s gravity. After that, the remaining fuel would be needed for minor course corrections and finally landing on Mars. We lack a viable means of achieving the necessary means to make inter-planetary flight practical today. Even Elon Musk conceds his planned rockets to Mars would be one-way trips for their crews at present.

Morbious
2 months ago
Reply to  MariaRose

Well MariaRose, i loved star trek with its light speed travel as well as molecular scrambling transporter. However, ive read details (paul e below gets into them). Frankly, its like people in colonial times dreaming of the interstate highway system or jet travel. Im all for scifi as well as discussions of distant possibilities but to seriously consider life on mars with todays tech is ludicrous. Which makes me very suspicious. Go ahead and look up the details if you doubt me.

T smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Morbious

Research into bears and other animals which hibernate offer hope to overcome problems as the atrophy of muscle and bone density. The space program has already brought about a wealth of benefits in such fields of engineering, medicine and ecology. It will continue to do so as long as we’re willing to fund it. When the first explorers set out from Europe it took months to get to the New World. We’ll find new ways of doing things that seem fanciful now, and we’ll reap enormous benefits for the entire human race. That is, unless people like you stop us.

Morbious
2 months ago
Reply to  T smith

Just looking for realism. With current propulsion and landing systems going to mars to live is not feasible. Humans cannot breath on mars. Much depends on finding water and resupply takes a year and a half. Spanish explorers indeed had a long and dangerous voyage to the new world but they could breath new world air, drink new world water and eat new world food. Every scrap of food, tools, spare parts etc must be ferried from earth. And then theres things like medical and dental crises. If transit speed could be increased dramatically and new ways of landing found that weren’t so energy intensive then maybe, but life on mars would be akin to living on the sea floor. It makes no sense today but in the distant future….

Carol
2 months ago

I like the idea of space travel but that’s probably cuz I’ve always been a space nerd and a syfy fan! But if the technology developed thru this endeavor leads to ways of helping our own planet then good for us!!! We have pumped too much money into silly things like government investigations that are known to be just political stunts to help keep a certain party in power (oh my did I say the left?)! We could take that money and help move our technology forward which is what more space stuff I think will do!

Chuck
2 months ago

Such elated nonsense. We need to be putting such described finance and effort into solving earthly problems like efficient atomic energy development and enabling farming by lifting stupid methane, fertilizer, and fossil fuel restrictions. And dropping this stupid and false global warming thesis. You will make mankinds life on earth much better than by shooting a rocket up in the air.

Andrew Dunham
2 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

I agree. Also, I always wonder how much all these rockets contribute to the climate hysteria compared to cars and cow farts. Somehow, they don’t ever mention that.

PaulE
2 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

You mean the sensible stuff, that would actually advance mankind, improve the economy and society as a whole, continue to reduce world famine by increasing crop yields all over the planet and generally reduce global poverty all around the planet at the same time. Obviously, that would eliminate much of what the left likes to complain about, so he can’t go that route. You’ve just wiped out 60% to 80% of the left’s key rants. Instead we have to pursue ludicrous domestic and global policies around wholely fictitious theories based on no credible scientific data that will stand up to close scrutiny. Policies designed to actually regress mankind slowly back towards the pre-industrialized world of the mid 1700 and maybe even take us back to the Middle Ages. That is if they can continue to get away with it.

Chuck
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Actually I see their leftist efforts much more one-worldism power hungry plays than benign
pre-industrialized regression.

Stephen Russell
2 months ago

Media models for Space:
1981 Outland
Earth 2 TV movie 1971
2001
Alien, Aliens
near term

Space X rockets= those from 50s

PaulE
2 months ago

Nice repeat of a past article on the same subject. Still good reading though.

As for interplanetary manned space flight to Mars and beyond, I’m sure humanity will eventually develop the necessary advances in propulsion systems necessary to make such travel both practical, in terms of time enroute and back, as well as also safe for crews over such long distances. With Mars being 140 times farther away from the earth than the moon (approximately 33,8000,000 miles), expecting a crew to be confined in what most recent designs looks to be an enlarged Apollo flight capsule for months is realistically a non-starter. It is good PR though. Issues of severe muscle atrophy in such a confined space and potential prolonged exposure to cosmic radiation over such a long space flight, using existing technology and existing speeds attainable today, would be issues that need to be overcome. Still if people like Elon Musk put their minds towards solving all the technology issues involved, it is something mankind will eventually achieve. That is of course assuming humanity doesn’t go the WEF route and we descend into the second coming of the dark ages. Coin toss on that one at this point.

Max
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Someday, it will be the speed of thought for traveling.

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