Monday, 20 July 2009
Happy 40th Anniversary, Moon Landing!
1972 was the last time Man planted his great space-wellington on the lunar surface, and since that time the Moon's been waiting for us to call back. Seriously, it's like we went on a few dates with the Moon (6 in all), told it we were going to call it back soon and then never did. In effect, we dumped the Moon.
Amid the celebrations of Man's Greatest Achievement, the question of when, or if at all, Man will go back to the Moon has rumbled around, provoking the same old arguments that it always does when 'space exploration' is mentioned. People claim its too expensive, too environmentally damaging, and that the billions it would cost could be better spent on education and fighting poverty. Well those people can shut up and sit back down. You see, we need to go back there and then we need to go further, to Mars and beyond, regardless of the cost, because it's what the Human race does. We explore. We went from the cave and saw the horizon and wondered what was beyond it, and we've been wondering what's over the next horizon ever since. As Sam Seaborn says in 'The West Wing', "The history of Humanity is hung on a timeline of exploration". Take that away and we just begin to stagnate. I think we've been stagnating for too long. We've come a long way for a bunch of monkeys and we need to keep going. Money is not an excuse to stop. Planet Earth needs an ego boost - a reminder that the human race is not just about a life of bills and beer and swine flu and recycling, and the constant self-flagellationary thinking that every move we make is hurting the planet or wasting time or money. For too long all the wars and climate change and poverty have made us think we're failing and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. Everything on the news makes us feel like we should be ashamed of ourselves. I think we need to be reminded what a brilliant little species we can be when we really put our minds to it, and I think we need to have some hope that Humanity isn't atrophying, but rather progessing and actually working to shape it's own future and doing things it can be proud of. Travelling to the Moon or Mars, not just orbiting Earth in a giant International Tin Can, is the way to remind us of all that we do best. So what if it's expensive? You can't put a price on exploration. Heck, they can have a couple of hundred off me if they really need it that badly. It'd all be worth it just to see that great space-wellington stand on the Martian surface. Or maybe, just maybe, we could use it to have that 7th date with the Moon...
So, this has turned from a funny little cartoon to an article on the boundless exploration of the human race. And if you ever needed a speech that would persuade you to go back to the Moon, this is it. The one that started it all off in the first place. JFK's 'We Choose to Go to the Moon' speech is one of the finest pieces of oratory in all of history and it's well worth a listen. It sends shivers up my back every time I hear it.
Right, now if you'll excuse me I'm off to buy my space-suit and a crate of freeze-dried ice cream.