I think when Neil Armstrong died he might have been a bit frustrated and sad. Ten years before I was born he walked on the moon. In the next few years eleven other men walked on the moon. And then we stopped. I am quite sure that during his few hours on the moon Neil thought that he would live to see colonies existing on the moon. Maybe he imagined that he might be invited back in his old age as a tourist. I am sure he also thought that he would live to see the first person land on Mars. Reports seem to indicate that he was frustrated and annoyed that NASA’s manned space program got stuck and seems to have ground to a halt. Nothing can take away his own achievement though. He was a true hero of our times and his name will be remembered for many centuries to come. He also seems to have been a good and dignified human being. He will be missed.
I thought all these things while gazing up at last night’s almost full moon. I like going outside and looking up at the moon and stars. I like filling my mind with deep thoughts and big questions that I cannot answer.
Most of the time when I am not actually working or doing all the little domestic jobs that need doing, I think about other things. Some of them I write about here. Matters of spirituality such as what does it mean to be spiritual? What is the future of religion in society? Am I progressing on my own path or am I fooling myself? I often think about politics too… Who will win win the American election? How do governments get away with getting the poor to pay for the mistakes of the rich? Should Greece leave the Euro? Why are there so many wars? I often think about sex… Why does society make so many rules about it? Why do people fear different types of sexuality? Are men and women really equal in matters of sex? When am I going to get some more? Or I think about more trivial and personal things… What should I write about today? Do I spend too much time on my computer? Do I smoke too much?
All these things seem a bit insignificant compared to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon; and indeed they are. Neil Armstrong reminds us of our potential as human beings and perhaps of our destiny. We have achieved great things and we can do so again. The space program is expensive but certainly didn’t cost more than all the billions spent on election campaigns since 1969 or on weapons of mass destruction or on all the wars that have been fought during the last 40 years.
We pays our money; we takes our choice.
There is hope however in the shape of our own natural curiosity. The dream has not died. Going into space has not yet become a necessity, but perhaps it one day will. Meanwhile, I am not the only person who looks at the moon and wonders. Most of us have some sense of curiosity about what lies beyond the horizon. It is one of the things that make us human.
More than forty million kilometers away one of the most sophisticated robots ever built by human-kind is sitting on the surface of Mars and moving around. How it got there and landed safely was a feat of engineering equal to that which took Neal Armstrong to the moon, perhaps even greater. And as we go about our daily business and think our normal thoughts, Curiosity is zapping rocks with laser beams, collecting and analyzing samples, scuttling in the direction of Martian Mountains and going boldly where nobody has gone before. Perhaps Neil is looking down fondly at the little rover so far away from home. And perhaps he is looking back at the little blue planet shining in the martian sky and wondering when we are going to follow in his footsteps.