Forty years ago this month - 40, can you believe it? - A very historic event occurred. One which we young punks thought would forever change our lives.
Quick, can you tell me what it was? I say, quick, because if I gave you any time, you could look it up on google, or in one of those, what do you call them? Oh, yeah - books.
Well, here it is. On July 20, 1969 - FORTY years ago - man first landed on the moon. well, specifically, Neil Armstrong and the all-time "second banana," 'Buzz' Aldrin, landed on the moon. We all figured we'd all be living on other planets within a few years. At least, those of us who weren't very good science students, thought that.
Well, here it is forty years later and, though we all know people who SEEM as if they live on, or came from, another planet, the bottom line is, we all still live here on the good old planet Earth, and, in fact, very few of us have even ventured into "outer space. There certainly aren't gigantic space shuttles which transport a bunch of us "common men/women" back and forth between the planets.
The entire space program, in fact, is not nearly the big deal it was back when I was a kid. Back in those halcyon days of Project Mercury, Project Gemini and Project Apollo, we celebrated and idolized when Alan Shepard became the first man in space - and he didn't even go around the world. When John Glenn took a few trips around the Earth, he became a world-wide hero and was later elected a Senator and was talked-about for the office of the Presidency.
As a kid, I knew the names of all the original 7 Mercury astronauts, and a great book and film - "The Right Stuff" - were written about that group. Later on, another award-winning film, "Apollo 13," was produced about the ill-fated flight of the crew of that spaceship. Well, I know that the space shuttle has since been developed and international crews have inhabited them for long periods of time. But, it doesn't seem to me like the launch of a new craft is nearly the big deal it once was... usually the first I hear about it is when some newscaster mentions that the launch has been re-scheduled due to weather conditions (or mechanical malfunction), or that it will take off "as scheduled."
I mean, "space is the final frontier" they told us in the 1960s. The whole space program and getting to the moon was one of the legacies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. What happened?
I'm sure money is one of the biggest answers to why the "space program" is no longer front-page news, because money, or lack of it, is usually one of the answers to just about any "whatever happened to" question one may raise about any subject. I am also sure that the tragedies of the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003 have certainly played a part in things, too. Or, perhaps with science fiction being more popular than ever in books, television, film and video games, people have decided that, from what we have discovered to this point, science fact may be a whole lot less exciting that science fiction, so why bother spending all those billions and billions of dollars to verify that?
Let us just enjoy the life we have here on Earth and keep our visions of the future, be they Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or whatever ...
When you have something new and exciting to report that will affect all of us in a positive manner, NASA, let us know.