By Ken Knickerbocker
“Hello Neil and Buzz, I am talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made from the White House.
I just can’t tell you how proud we all are of what you have done. For every American this has to be the proudest day of our lives, and for people all over the world I am sure that they, too, join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is.”
Richard Nixon 7/20/69
On the morning of July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins sat atop Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.
July 20, 1969, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
The day of the moon landing is a moment frozen in time when an estimated 500 million people worldwide stopped to watch images of the first man walking on the moon with memories like this: “My dad put the TV in the yard so we could watch the moon landing and the night sky at the same time.”
This event rallied Americans and connected us as we experienced the most historic achievement in science. This occurred during a time of turmoil and change as our country stood poised upon a chasm of human divide during the civil rights movement. Yet we put differences aside and our hearts swelled with pride as we honored our astronauts as a united front.
Will people today look at that moment in awe as we did when we watched it live on TV?
In 1969 America was on the forefront of science and technology. Space exploration was considered a priority mission, and the race was on to be the first in the world to do it.
According to USA Today, only 31% of the public today feels the benefits of space exploration outweighs the billions in cost. Only 8% want another moon landing to be a top priority. Americans look at it as been there done that.
What if that were the mindset Lewis and Clark? How rational is it for them to say “We’re going to go West one time and then we’re going to quit, because we’ve done that?”
However, half of Americans still believe “the United States should re-start their Moon explorations missions to catch-up to countries like China and Israel.”
One thing they have in common today with the Apollo era public is a desire for the U.S. to be first, or to stay in the lead when posed with the issue of competition. So the quest to be first is still present.
In 1969, “It took 10 people to operate just one IBM 360 computer,” says NASA tour guide. Today you could probably launch every rocket ever made using one app on your smartphone.
Scientific technology is growing exponentially. Artificial Intelligence is taking the place of human functionality. Is AI as amazing as the moon landing? Or are we so saturated with technology it becomes the logical next step – no awe or amazement.
Today the perception of space exploration is how to use it for the benefit and development of the world. Americans are more interested in lunar missions to inspire next generations of scientists, engineers, and doctors for the purpose of monitoring the earth for environmental changes and how it feeds back to the economy and makes our country stronger.
In order to pay the bills for such exploration, the new frontier is now being looked at for tourism. According to RT, the plan from NASA is to permit Boeing and SpaceX, the two spacecraft contractors, to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for the purpose of transporting tourists.
Why not? Lewis and Clark paved the way for economic development and eventually tourism on the West Coast. Outer space is no different from other untapped areas of exploration. The difference is now we have the technology to do it.
Space has become the greatest uncharted area of exploration and moon landing may now be considered passé if it doesn’t bring a profit or benefit. It’s no longer the greatest scientific achievement and to recreate it should be for reasons to improve humanity and earth preservation and not just to “do it just because we can.”
Ask yourself this question. What surprises us today? In a world experiencing unprecedented strife and turmoil, what momentous event can cause 500 million people to come together and experience an event in awe and amazement?
Denise Romanelli contributed to this post.