Forty years ago this weekend, Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins were the most famous men on the planet. And they were some 240,000 miles from it.
They were circling the lunar surface preparing to set down for what would become one of humanity’s greatest achievements.
On Monday, we will mark the historic anniversary of, as Armstrong so aptly put it, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The statement still gives space buffs the shivers.
Armstrong, and then Aldrin, were the first two men to set foot on the moon, an act that was cause for great patriotic fervor in its time and a moment that transcends most other personal accomplishments even today.
Unfortunately, it was also the pinnacle of America’s space program, which today is but a shadow of the days of Apollo 11. Our aging space shuttle fleet and the lack of any viable, independent space station proposals put our country’s aeronautics program on a back burner.
Perhaps now is as good a time as any to suggest that maybe our next great sphere of exploration should be the planet Earth.
Economics limit our ability to freely fling men into space. Perhaps it is more cost effective to find out what’s on the ocean’s bottom? Or at the center of the Earth?
We feel some of our greatest resources are those yet discovered right here, on the “third rock from the sun,” from potential medicines to new sources of energy.
And, with the rate we are depleting reserves readily within reach, we need to find backups to keep the globe going. Extending our planet’s life will allow us the time to someday return to space with the gusto that NASA once enjoyed.
Yes, there are a lot of accomplishments that individuals and private and public enterprises can attain here at home. But those are in the future.
And if our fledgling entrepreneurs need any inspiration all they need do is think back on the heroics of that long ago moment when three men reached out and found their destinies in the stars.