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Time To Go To Mars

Apollo 11

Yesterday a true hero died. Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon, died at age 82. Being a Boomer born when all seemed possible the Moon Missions were just that, another huge possibility, something to attain. To this day whenever I look at the Moon I think of Apollo and the Moon landings. When my children first began asking about the night sky and the Moon I told them that at one time twelve men landed and walked upon her surface. I tried to instill the awe I felt in them. I think I succeeded, though to them Apollo was “history”, something taught in school.

I still remember watching the Moon shots in the 60s and early 70s, living it as it happened. It was a time of great belief in what mankind could do. The Moon was to be but the first step. Then, sadly, the typical cynicism and lack of adventure so many foster took sway and the entire Apollo program ended. Not with fanfare, but with indifference. The pursuit of adventure, knowledge gone. Many of my generation felt it was but a temporary setback but looking back now I realize it was inevitable. People focused more on “Earthly problems” held sway, pushing the notion that Man in Space was foolhardy.

But it wasn’t and it isn’t. The very attempt to get a man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth required huge advancements in science and technology. They required a much better understanding of body mechanics and stress. They required diagnostics and diagnostic techniques that would allow doctors to monitor astronauts so far away there was simply no way to do a house call. And all this technology has found its way into our daily lives from the computers we use today to the remote diagnostics and surgeries performed courtesy of the Internet to the monitoring technology we take for granted when in hospital. And it doesn’t end there. The spin offs were endless, from waste recycling technologies to air cleaners to say nothing of satellite technology that allows us to monitor storms and weather to provide better forecasting so as to yield better harvests for the world. The fact poverty and hunger has decreased during the era we’ve been putting men and technology into space is not a mere coincidence. Technology and adventure strain our abilities and we end up stretching to ensure we manage to achieve our dreams.

And I must mention the blowhards who harp on about NASA’s budget, as if it was a true strain on the US economy. Not a single US President or Congress has had the balls to stand up and state the truth, that what the US spends on the military in a month dwarfs what NASA gets for the year. NASA gets about $17B, the US military about $680B. Or, to look at it yet another way, Americans spend nearly $200B on alcohol and tobacco annually, ten times NASA’s current budget. Or, to see something that has nearly the same cost as NASA: the war on drugs, which costs the US about $16B. And yet, what economic spinoffs have come out of the war on drugs? None. NASA? Endless. Perhaps it would be best, and rather apropos, to legalize drugs and take the estimated $80B that would be injected into the US treasury and hand it to NASA: illicit highs to fund the highest pursuit.

So here we stand with Neil Armstrong now gone. In 1969 he stepped onto the surface of another celestial orb. Another 11 men would do the same. Who would have believed they would have been the only ones to do so. That for nearly 50 years no one else but those first twelve would have been launched by a species to another world. A massive achievement done, as Armstrong and Aldrin stated once upon the Moon, for all mankind.

I read yesterday that no one born after 1935 has ever landed on another heavenly body. How can that be? How have we allowed ourselves to so focus on trivialities such as “reality” TV shows, pseudo-intellectuals, pseudo-celebrities, the never-ending gossip that circulates across the Internet, or so much other fluff and not made an attempt to go to Mars? How have we not continued on outward in ever demanding, ever challenging, ever more wondrous adventures into our Solar System?  It’s truly sad.

So let’s decide to go to Mars. There are men and women who are willing to go — even if the trip were one way; hell, I’d go even if it was merely one way as the chance to do so much for mankind would, to me, be the highest of privileges and honour.

There are countless individuals on the planet Earth who comprehend that what makes our species tick is risk and adventure, discovery, doing what seems foolhardy, dangerous. That we need, as a species, something to strive for. Sending probes like Curiosity is all well and good but what really needs to happen is to send humans to Mars. And not just to Mars, but beyond. When I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon I felt as if I were there with them. They did that for me, for everyone. That’s why everyone in the World celebrated. Political systems were irrelevant at that point when the Eagle landed. It was about Mankind. It’s why the plaque they left there specifies the highest of human desires: Peace.

Apollo 11 Plaque

It would have been much better if in 2019 we’d have seen the First Men on the Moon having a photo shoot with the First Men and Women on Mars. I had hoped to see that by now. But those first heroes are beginning to leave this orb. Let’s replenish their ranks with new heroes for all Mankind to look up to both spiritually and physically by placing humans on Mars.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Armstrong.

 

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August 2012
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