Post Apollo

Since I was elsewhere, and oddly forgetful, I didn’t post anything timely about the Apollo anniversary on Monday.

Here’s a late thought, then:

The Apollo landing on the Moon, with two genuine humans inside, was the biggest thing we the human race had done so far.

There were three aspects that I, in my hurried amateur view, see as big, whatever that might be.

First, one needs to be certain that the Moon is an actual place. That’s not just astronomy; that’s cosmology.

Second, one needs to have the vast, and vastly reliable, amount of technology to go there with any hope of arrival and return. That takes centuries before you even know what to strive for, and decades to get it after you have your Tsiolkovskys and Goddards.

Third, one needs to have the will to pay the time, resources and lives (remember Apollo 1!) it takes to make the idea and plan into reality. (This is a tainted point, by the way — Apollo was not driven by pure curiosity and desire, but US-Soviet PR rivalry. If only they had consulted a Terry O’Reilly on how to make brands live long and prosper instead of taking the gains and running.)

As I have no good metric for measuring the bigness of things done, I have to guess; and my personal guess is that the thing that culminated in Armstrong and Aldrin stepping down, with Collins circling above lonelier than anyone ever before, was so big and mythic that it deserves to be called the biggest thing we humans had done… so far.

* * *

Phil Plait has a more eloquent personal opinion.

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