Apollo 11 Anniversary

Apollo 11 Anniversary

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I hope this isn’t a copyrighted photo. Human boot print on the Moon. 

I would be guilty of a crime if I didn’t mark the anniversary, the 47th this year, of the Apollo landing on the moon today, the 20th of July. I am happy to say I remember watching a fuzzy television image in black and white and at the bottom some words, one of which was moon. I didn’t know the significance of this event in history for a couple more decades. I remember my kindergarten teacher discussing the summer spectacle but it didn’t stir my curiosity as much as watching water boil in a glass pot on a hot plate.

Humans have a hard time understanding big things. Not just large, like the galaxy, which is more than 100,000 light years across, or a googolplex of anything (1 plus 100 zeros),  but even immediate large, like the length of time life has existed on Earth (about 3.5 billion years). Time and distance, as any algebra student will tell you, can be really hard to fathom.

Human achievement is an entirely different ‘big’ thing. And it is rarely, if ever, accomplished by one person in a single moment. Landing humans on the moon, and returning them to Earth, was a gargantuan feat that took thousands of humans centuries to accomplish (consider for arguments sake we start with DaVinci). It may have been the most comprehensive collection of effort to advance the human condition ever. Only war has ever used more people at one time for a single goal, and I’d like to think those events don’t serve to advance our civilizations but instead are more like plugging a hole in a dam to keep the worst from happening.

To don a protective garment, climb into a small metal cone and sit atop a rocket to escape gravity, to stay  in a a few hundred cubic feet for days and land on another celestial body, get out, walk around, take pictures like a tourist, get back into the foil covered structure and then come back, having to splash down in the ocean without burning up like a meteor is extraordinary!

And a phrase was born: If we can go to the moon, we should be able to {fill in the blank}. No one says “if we can invent movable type, we should be able to {fill in the blank}”, or “If we can harness atomic power, we should be able to {fill in the blank}. There are thousands of milestones in human history, all of which advanced humanity in its own way (the wheel, the guillotine, penicillin) but still will support that as a species, nothing compares to what happened on July 20, 1969 AD, 19:56 Pacific Time, precisely because it didn’t happen on Earth.

And if we can go to the moon, only the limits of our imagination hold us back.

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