Tomorrow, July 20, will mark the 33rd anniversary of the first moon landing. InstaPundit wonders why we were closer to colonizing space 33 years ago than we are now, and I agree.
Glenn Reynolds links to a story with this quote from Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the screenplay to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Five hundred million years ago, the moon summoned life out of its first home, the sea, and led it onto the empty land. For as it drew the tides across the barren continents of primeval earth, their daily rhythm exposed to sun and air the creatures of the shallows. Most perished — but some adapted to the new and hostile environment. The conquest of the land had begun.
We shall never know when this happened, on the shores of what vanished sea. There were no eyes or cameras present to record so obscure, so inconspicuous an event. Now, the moon calls again — and this time life responds with a roar that shakes earth and sky.
When the Saturn V soars spaceward on nearly four thousand tons of thrust, it signifies more than a triumph of technology. It opens the next chapter of evolution.
No wonder that the drama of a launch engages our emotions so deeply. The rising rocket appeals to instincts older than reason; the gulf it bridges is not only that between world and world — but the deeper chasm between heart and brain.
2001 was not alone in predicting humanity's colonization of space. From Space: 1999 to Star Trek to Destroy All Monsters, the popular culture of the late '60s simply presumed that a permanent space station and moon base were inevitable. Yet we deserted the moon, Skylab and Mir were both abandoned to a firey re-entry, and the International Space Station is still incomplete. Even so, images of space from the Hubble Telescope continue to inspire wonder.
The closing years of the Apollo moon program are among my earliest memories. My daughter Cecilia now has my old pajamas with pictures of astronauts--now faded--printed on the flannel. I imagine my daughters will have a phase, like I did, when they'll want to be an astronaut. I hope that her generation will have the opportunity we seem to have squandered.