Tuesday, May 22, 2012
WE NEED A NEW MISSION
Recently I started watching “From the Earth to the Moon”, the 1998 twelve-part HBO television miniseries co-produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Tom Hanks which detailed the landmark Apollo expeditions to the Moon during the 1960s and early 1970s and I was transported back in time.
Remember when Humankind had big dreams for our world? Many of you will but most of you won’t. Back in the early, heady days of the 1960’s when a young, dynamic, ambitious American President, John F. Kennedy, announced to the world that the Americans would win the Space Race by "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the 1960’s decade was out. I was four-and-a-half years old when he made that announcement in May of 1961 and I was twelve-and-a-half years old in July of 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off of the last rung of the ladder on the Lunar Module stating, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.”
Now, before we go any further, I’ll insert the following for all of you Conspiracy Theorists who insist that the Moon landings were all a hoax and shot on a Hollywood sound stage, or something. “There is empirical evidence readily available to show that manned moon landings did indeed occur. Anyone on Earth with an appropriate laser and telescope system can bounce laser beams off three retro-reflector arrays left on the Moon by Apollo 11, 14 and 15, verifying deployment of the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment at historically documented Apollo Moon landing sites and so proving equipment constructed on Earth was successfully transported to the surface of the Moon. In addition, in August 2009 NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter began to send back high resolution photos of the Apollo landing sites. These photos show not only the large Descent Stages of the lunar landers left behind but also tracks the astronauts’ walking paths in the lunar dust.” So there!
Now where was I…oh, yes…one could argue, of course, that the motivation for the Excited States of America to put a man on the Moon was purely political and it was only Cold War muscle-flexing to show that their, the U S of A, and our own Canadian political ideology, Capitalism, was better than the Soviet Union’s political ideology, Communism. And given that during that exact same timeline, when JFK was setting out the Mission to the Moon initiative, the two Cold War combatants, the USA and the USSR, came this close to lobbing nuclear warheads at each other and I, for one, am very glad that they decided to compete in a race to see which nation would accomplish the most in Outer Space as opposed to an all out war on each other here on Earth. Regardless the motivation, the ambitious vision was carried out within Kennedy’s timeframe.
So where are the world’s visionaries now? Where are all the big ideas? Who’s going to lead humanity into a better future?
Does the world need a new Apollo mission? Do we need to set a new goal for humanity? My answers are yes and no. No to the first question and yes to the second. In my view humanity does not need to explore outer space or other planets when we should be putting our resources, energy and efforts into cleaning up and preserving the one that we’ve got but the ambition and vision of achieving something beyond man’s imagination and seeing it through to its end is something that mankind should be continually striving to do and at this point in our history it is time to set some real goals for the long-term life of our planet.
“Ambition is not what a man would do, but what a man does, for ambition without action is fantasy.”-Bryant H. McGill (1969-).