I’ve mentioned before that one of my earliest memories was being allowed to stay up to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV (yes, I am that old!). It was a momentous occasion in many ways, and for me it provided a lifelong interest, or perhaps obsession would be a better word, with science, and particularly physics, space, and astronomy. So much so that one of my early goals was to become an astrophysicist!
So, it’s amazing to think that this event, which still seems so vivid and exciting to me, happened fifty years ago on July 21st 1969 (the ship landed on the 20th, but Neil Armstrong didn’t make his historic walk until 6 hours later). It’s awe-inspiring, and yet, at the same time, somewhat tarnished by the thought that humanity hasn’t pushed any further into space (at least in crewed vehicles), and, in some senses, has even retreated from that pinnacle.
A few years ago, I contributed to the Reboot the Suit kickstarter: a fund-raising campaign by the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum to perform a full restoration of Neil Armstrong’s space suit. It was an honor to be a part of that, even though I had to wonder why the project wasn’t given proper funding by the government.
And with the renewed interest in the moon, a recent piece in the New York Times asked the question “Should Neil Armstrong’s Bootprints Be on the Moon Forever?” preserved and protected. My answer is an unequivocal yes.
It’s also interesting to discover how much of a connection my home town, Sudbury, Ontario, has to the moon. From testing the Lunar rover here, to NASA sending astronauts to the area to study impact craters, Sudbury, and Canada, were intimately connected with the Apollo program in many ways. (Sudbury is the only Canadian city ever mentioned in Apollo mission documents.)
Although I’m enjoying the renewed interest in going back to the moon, I doubt it will happen in the timescales some are casually tossing around. Going into space–visiting another world, staying there, and coming back–those are difficult things to pull off, and anyone who minimizes the risk or timescale is either dangerously optimistic or deluded. We’ve also lost a lot of the expertise of the original Apollo engineers, many of whom are now retired or have died.
With all that said, I still believe that humanity needs to spread out to other worlds (or space habitats) to increase its chances of surviving. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what comes next. And I salute each and every one of the people who were involved in the Apollo missions and made such an incredible feat possible. Thank you for a lifetime of curiosity, wonder, and excitement.