Apollo 11

It was a late Sunday evening. I can’t remember whether my parents were there. I assume they were, but what was unfolding on the television was the most amazing thing I could imagine, and I honestly don’t remember. I do remember…, a door opened…, and

Physically, a man took one small step onto the moon. Metaphorically, the possibilities of our species became, if only for a shining moment, clear to anyone who would imagine what we might accomplish.

45 years ago today, the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon. For the 17 year old watching raptly, it was the culmination of an adventure that began when Yuri Gagarin roared into space to complete the first orbit of the earth.

I was fortunate. My parents allowed my imagination to roam. When I was very young, I remember my father pointing out the Echo satellite as it transited through the night sky. When an astronaut went into space, it was understood that I would stay home from school to watch the launch. The astronauts were adventurers and explorers, every bit as much as the first man who wondered what was over the horizon. (or what a horizon meant)

On July 20th, 1969, it seemed to me that we would certainly reach Mars, Venus, and perhaps even the moons of Jupiter during my lifetime. Einstein’s rules said that matter could not travel faster than light, but perhaps there was a way around that. The drive to explore our universe would take us towards those answers. Surely, of we could stand on the moon, we could feed a child in Central Africa.

I was wrong.

Could we have done it? I have no doubt that it was possible, but instead we returned to  pettiness and small ideas.

From space, there are no neatly drawn lines separating one country from another. The British Empire is not colored red, and the countries of Central America are not delineated by different hues so that we can tell one from the other. There is only our small blue orb, and its future lays in the aspirations and dreams of those who would dare to accomplish things… “Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

It seems now increasingly unlikely that I will see mankind leave footprints on Mars. I will certainly see an iPhone 10.

I’m a little sad this evening as I consider this.