22 July 2009

Beyond the Moon

This Monday marked the fortieth anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. I've lost track of (and am losing patience with) the number of blog postings I've seen claiming that, in the meantime, we've retreated from space because no humans have walked on the Moon since the end of the Apollo program.

Of course, we have not retreated from space. During those forty years we’ve explored most of the solar system, using technology as far advanced over the Saturn V as the Saturn V was over the Wright brothers’ plane. Advanced enough, in fact, to abandon the expensive, dangerous, and pointless practice of sending humans along physically.

We will never forget the drama of that day in 1969 and the courage it took to step out into an utterly lifeless, waterless, airless desert a quarter million miles from home. But today, sending humans to the Moon or the other planets would merely be a stunt. Anything that humans could do there can now be done at least as well by machines for a tiny fraction of the cost. So far from abandoning space exploration over the last few decades, we've figured out the right way to do it.

2 Comments:

Anonymous rita said...

You make a very good point.

I love the concept of space exploration. I think the need to reach ever farther into the beyond is one of the wonderful characteristics that defines humanity. We all do it in our own way & collectively we've achieved great things as a species. Go humanity!

23 July, 2009 02:53  
Blogger Conrad Strong said...

It was an amazing accomplishment back in 1969. I heard someone say yesterday that my cell phone has 64 times the computing power of all the computers used to make that first moon landing. I agree, however, that it makes no sense to return man to the moon. We should focus on discovering new things in the universe with unmanned technology.

23 July, 2009 04:01  

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