Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20th.

Today is the 43d anniversary of the first time that -- as far as we know -- the species of one object in our solar system set foot upon another.  The first time where humans became the alien invaders, even if there were no other beings there to see that invasion.

It is one of those days I feel compelled to commemorate, just as I feel compelled to commemorate what one friend calls "Dead Astronaut Week," those horrible several days at the end of January and the beginning of February that mark the greatest failures of our space program.  You have to applaud the successes as well as mourn and memorialize the disasters, and this was the success to top all of the others.

We are, as a species, still looking towards the heavens with an eye towards exploration. The Rocket Scientist left today for his annual pilgrimage in support of that objective, to Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic.  December 29th he leaves for the other end of the globe, on his way to Antarctica.  In both places he will be testing a drill design hopefully destined for some other planet.  

It's more of an international effort, now, than it was in 1969.  Not just the U.S. and the Russians, but the Europeans and the Canadians and the Chinese and many other countries have space agencies, and scientists all over the globe are working on the roadblocks that arise when people or objects leave terra firma.  (Many of those scientists are in private industry or universities.)  There are international conferences on a lot of these issues.  And each time we figure out how to overcome one obstacle, we inevitably end up finding a use for that knowledge here on earth, in everything from textiles to medicine to firefighting. Reaching for the stars helps us live better lives down here on the ground.

So, yes, we went to the moon and haven't been back since 1972. We have not yet been to Mars. Or Europa. But we will.  We have to.

As a species, we can not let that "one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind" be in vain.

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