If you're like me (and I know many of you are), you grew up reading the
science fiction of the 1940's and 1950's, promising a quick and rapid expansion
into the solar system, and not too long thereafter, the galaxy. Your young
mind tried, and failed, to fathom the vastness of the empty gulfs between the
stars. But there was one thing you knew: you wanted to go.
During the incomprehensibly lengthy interval between you and adulthood, man
would surely prepare itself to go to Mars and beyond, and you were going to be
among the pioneers.Four years before I was born, man
walked on the moon for the first time, the most magnificent single feat our
little tribe of East African Plains Apes has ever managed. Now we don't
even do that. What happened to the dream? Government mismanagement,
yes, but something more than that, too, some failure of imagination and
will. I hope that by the fiftieth anniversary some people, somewhere, will
have regained the momentum that pushed mankind into our first tenative baby step
towards the stars.
I too was born four years after the Apollo XI and shared the same sense of youthful amazement concerning space exploration. I think that we (or more specifically, the U.S. government and NASA) have failed to move beyond the moon or to even return to the moon because most of our governmental institutions, including NASA, no longer attract individuals who have the imagination and intelligence necessary to achieve such goals. Indeed, I think that humans will return to the moon and travel beyond in the coming years, but the new explorers will be private astronauts employed by companies such as Scaled Composites and its partner Virgin Galatic or SpaceX.