What Are We Doing?

I noticed this morning that I jumped the gun a bit when I posted my annual reflection on the anniversary of the first human footsteps on the Moon. I know, of course, that the Eagle landed at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969, but for some reason, I got my dates confused and I threw my post up on the 19th. So mea culpa on that.

Phil Plait, a.k.a. the “Bad Astronomer” (not “bad” as in “bad at his job,” but as in “bad-ass astronomer who years ago started a blog to discuss the astronomy mistakes in movies and the popular consciousness, which he called bad astronomy“), did not make that mistake. His annual post went out on the correct day, curse his hide.

Now, he always writes a thoughtful call-to-arms on this subject, but I thought this year’s sentiments were especially stirring… and timely, considering that the U.S. has been without its own human launch capability for three years and public interest in putting people in space seems to be at an all-time ebb, even as SpaceX and the other commercial companies, as well as venerable old NASA, are making huge steps toward getting us back up there. Phil’s entire post is worth your attention, but I especially liked his concluding paragraphs:

When I look back over the time that’s elapsed since 1969, I wonder what we’re doing. I remember the dreams of NASA, and they were too the dreams of a nation: Huge space stations, mighty rockets plying the solar system, bases and colonies on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. Those weren’t just the fantasies of science fiction. We could’ve done them. Right now, today, those dreams could have been reality.


Instead, we let those small-minded human traits flourish. We’ve let politics, greed, bureaucracy, and short-sightedness rule our actions, and we’ve let them trap us here on the surface of our planet.


It needn’t have been this way, and it still needn’t be this way. There are those who still dream, who understand the call to space, and who are devoting their lives to make it reality. We’ve faced adversity before, and have not let it stop us.


I think we can overcome our own petty blindness. Sometimes we humans look up, not down, and see not just the Universe stretching out before us, but also our place in it.


We’ve done it before and we can—we must, and we will—do it again.

Something to ponder over the weekend…