“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” are words that inspired a fascination with the vastness of the universe, of the unknown and of stories creatures, robots and other worlds. ET was desperate to “phone home.” Mork never missed a call to Orson back home on Ork reporting back his ethnographic observations of life on earth.
Our TV and movies are never far, far away from stories of other worlds.
The sense of wonder of life beyond as we know it.
“Ground Control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. Ground Control to Major Tom.
… TEN … NINE … EIGHT … SEVEN … SIX …
Commencing countdown, engines on.
… FIVE … FOUR … THREE …
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.
… TWO … ONE … LIFTOFF!!!!!”David Bowie / Space Oddity July 11, 1969
This week marks the 5oth anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon.
An estimated 500 million people worldwide watched this event July 20, 1969, the largest television audience for a live broadcast at that time.
On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed Congress and declared …
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations – explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon – if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”President John F. Kennedy – Read full speech
A president harnessing the pride of a nation to ‘be the first.’
“Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last.”President John F. Kennedy – Read full speech
NASA has just released video that portrays the last few minutes of the 1969 landing that nobody has seen until now. Armstrong was forced to manually steer the Lunar Module away from rocks and debris that covered the intended landing site. The spacecraft landed with only enough fuel left for less than another minute of flight, a very close landing.
Listening you can just imagine the NASA team and television audiences worldwide holding their breath, waiting, waiting, nervously for a safe landing. And then we hear Armstrong …
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”Neil Armstrong
They had achieved the unimaginable goal set less than a decade ago.
Then the words from Houston …
“Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”NASA Houston
On achieving the ‘be the first’ goal, community and political sentiment around space exploration waned, as focus turned to the economy and more local matters. Budgets were $5-6 Billion US 1965-68, then gradually declined for the next decade, then started to again rise to now in 2019 $22 Billion US.
We are living in a different time, a different world. The question may come back to are we still as amazed and fascinated of what exists beyond earth. Of new worlds, of galaxies far away.
Have we become numb to new frontiers?
Perhaps the beauty of reliving Apollo 11 takes us back to a simple, even naive time that is now ancient history. A time when our geographic isolation meant that we lived far more local and exploration of new lands, and other worlds was breath taking and awe inspiring. Now we can see just anywhere anytime, and the wonder potentially dissipates.
The space race has largely moved from a global race between the US, Soviet Union and Germany, to an increasing effort from rich entrepreneurs – Jeff Bezos: Blue Origin versus Elon Musk: Space X versus Sir Richard Branson: Virgin Galactic (More >). Do such endeavours excite the community to the same extent as Apollo 11? Likely not, as we live in a different world. A few rich white guys seeking to ‘be the first’ looking to bravely go where no other businessman has gone before, may not resonate with most, other than our entrepreneurial enthusiasts in awe of such wealth and endeavour.
The anniversary of Apollo 11 likely reminds us of the importance of searching for new galaxies far, far away. To not lose enthusiasm to conquer new worlds. To not become too risk adverse, rather strive to “be the first,” even when the spending may seem frivolous and really not able to be justified immediately as there is no clear Return on Investment (#Yawn).
So, the challenge comes back to …
“To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man (or women et cetera) has gone before!”
Ps. When David Bowie was interviewed in 2003 interview he said his inspiration for ‘Space Oddity’ released just before the Apollo 11 landed was actually the 1968 science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey …
“In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the space landing, because it kind of came to prominence around the same time. But it actually wasn’t. It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”David Bowie 2003