Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July moon

Forty-two years ago today my wife and I took a break from moving into our new apartment, set up our black and white television, and watched the Apollo 11 moon landing.

In 1969 we Americans were engaged in a hot war in Vietnam, a cold war with Russia, debates on poverty, crime, and the direction our country was taking. Not much has changed after four decades except the cold war with Russia. Since humans began walking upright people had dreamed of touching the moon. On that day in 1969 we Americans fulfilled that dream. We can claim a national pride over our space program, but now our space shuttle program is over, with no new program to take its place.

I bemoaned the fact at a dinner with friends that the space program appears to have begun and ended within our lifetimes. It seems odd to think of it that way, because the technology still exists, and we could start a new program if we had the national will. A woman said to me, "Yes, but look at the costs," as if it were a waste of money. I believe that the world is a better place because of conquering space and reaching the nearest celestial body.

In 1946 astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell did a series of paintings on what a moon trip might look like. Bonestell's detailed art of other planets, which I encountered in the 1950s as a space-struck youngster, gave me a sense of wonder. A space voyage was then the stuff of fiction, but after it became reality the sense of wonder went out of it. It was, and is, a great accomplishment, but it seems like most things in our short attention span society there's a "been there, done that" attitude toward space.

These paintings are from Life March 4, 1946:

The July 17, 2011 Parade magazine claims that private enterprise is poised to take over the space biz. Yeah, well...when they do let me know. I know that there are a lot of out of work engineers and scientists for a talent pool to tap into, but would a viable vehicle be ready in the next five years? Ten years? Sooner? We'll see.

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