July 21st 1969
21st July 1969. I was eleven years old.
For several days before the 21st my Grandad and I had been glued to the television screen in my grandparent’s house in Smethwick, West Midlands, England.
Whilst my Nan busied herself in the kitchen occasionally popping in to get an update on the event we were watching unfold.
My Nan, Grandad and myself were joined by 650 million eager and excited people worldwide watching as Neil Armstrong placed his footprint on the Moon’s surface.
What an achievement.
Although it’s a little difficult to put aside the political and economic context of this achievement there is no denying that the Apollo 11 Moon Landing as a key moment in recent history.
It’s a shame that as a race we often fail to build on the creative and adventurous wave that spread from such events. There is a tendency to seek to undermine such achievements with retrospective rhetoric. Such detractors often miss the point, as do those who seek to justify space exploration in terms of the “spin-offs” like Velcro!
The “thing” that drew the collective attention of 650 million people was the recognition that something incredible was being attempted.
650 million people focusing their collective attention on three, and ultimately one fellow human being doing something a quarte of a million miles away.
Inspiring some to reflect on what they could do rather than what they couldn’t do.
Human’s are explorers and settlers at their core, and perhaps the Apollo missions spoke to that deep, ancestral motivation.
Whilst we could talk about costs of resources and to the environment; the inequalities of the time and where else we could’ve put our focus the Moon landings demonstrated what collective effort, determination and clear goals can achieve.
It’s such a shame that we, as people, fail to take inspiration from such undertakings and do the things that we can do collectively nor because they are easy but because they are hard (to quote JFK).
Where is the collective will to reduce poverty, deal with inequity and work with the planet?
Exploring our universe is not at odds with seeking to make life better for those on Earth. Those who reduce the discussion to an either/or proposition tend to oversimplify the issues, the potentials and the possibilities.
Banner waving and problem focussed rhetoric will not help the situation. Creative, innovative and focused will to act can!