20 July 2010

Morning Vent, 20 July 2010 (Apollo Edition)

SpacegirlTM didn't go to The Moon... and maybe
no one else will go again.

    Today's blog is autoposting. It's dedicated to the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, which occurred 41 years ago today.

Have we gone from 'Where no man has gone before' to 'Where no man will go again'?

    It's a measure of how much things have changed in America since I was a boy that almost no one remembers the Apollo moon landing. For population distracted by other things or just too young to remember, the Apollo missions are mere history - and dead history, at that. On 20 July 1969, men from Earth landed on The Moon. What an astounding event that was. I was 7 years old, visiting relatives in Marlin, Texas, and I stay up late in my jammies to watch men walk on The Moon. It was one of the moments in my childhood that cemented a life-long love of science, especially the space sciences.

Old Glory flies on the lunar surface.

    As I blogged back in May, I had been fascinated with science, space, and astronomy for a couple of years since my older brother Rick's friend, Richard Oswald, had given me a book on the planets in the Solar System. I had also started collecting the Science Service books at school.
    The Science Service books were soft cover books on the sciences printed in black and white, but with glossy color photos which you could glue into the books. They were amazing books, just awesome for stimulating interest in every form of science. How many books can you think of that would make the science of making glass interesting to a 7 year old? The Science Service managed to do it.

The logo of the Science Service

    The best of the books for me were those on Rocketry and the Space Program. I was fascinated with the Space Program, devouring details about early aeronautical and space research. The names of the brave men who pioneered space were as familiar to me as baseball players to other kids: Col. John Stapp, the Fastest Man on Earth; the Mercury Seven; and the astronauts of the Apollo Program were heroes to me.
    Recently, things have not been so spiffy for the Space Program. The manned missions, at least as far as the United States is concerned, are now to be conducted at the mercy of countries with viable launch platforms. Shamefully, we could not return to The Moon today even if we wanted to and had the will to do it. We have no launch platform that can send a manned payload to lunar orbit. None. And, as this blog is written, there are only 2 shuttle missions still scheduled; after that the STS (Space Transport System) popularly known as the 'Space Shuttle' will be grounded, turned into museum pieces. It's ironic that 41 years after we won the Space Race against the Soviet Union, the Russians are now our only ride into near Earth orbit. What's up with that?
     One of the things that hurt us the most was the evaporation of the notion that science was cool. A whole generation became engineers, mathematicians, physicists, and so forth on the mystique of the Space Race of the 1960s-70s. Suddenly, in the early 60s, it was cool to be a nerd. It was virtuous. It was virtually a public service. We sorely need that again.
    Today marks 41 years since the first Moon landing. Today, on 20 July 2010, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle, the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module), on The Moon while pilot Michael Collins orbited in the Command Module Columbia above them. It was an adventure more daring than any attempted in human history. And now it's gone.

Crew of Apollo 11, we salute you.

    Don't let it be forgotten. Remember today what the entire human race accomplished on that day.

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