40 years ago tonight, men walked on the moon. I'm too young to have witnessed humanity's greatest adventure, but the event has always inspired me. And, it seems, it inspired a lot of others too. I remember having a big colourful hardback science book as a kid; on the front cover the familiar scientific montage of animals, crystals, volcanoes and waves; but on the back, just a single image: this one.
It's an image that captures the imagination, one that inspires. Intrepid adventurers hovering above a strange barren world, the blue gem of home gleaming in the distance. As a boy, I never knew anyone who wanted to be a train driver or a fireman. We all wanted to be astronauts. I still do, although now I have to concede my best chance is experiencing it vicariously. So what happened to the great space adventure?
Perhaps it was too expensive? The Apollo Project cost $25 billion at 1969 rates, (equivalent to $135 billion today). The Iraq War has so far cost the US Treasury $845 billion, (although one Nobel prize winning economist estimates it's closer to $3 trillion). Put like that, it sounds more like a desperate failure of leadership.
Speaking today the Apollo astronauts spoke of the power of great endeavours, how a mission to Mars had the potential to unite humanity in a common goal. And I wonder, why do we spend so much 'defending' ourselves from nations who could be partners in the greatest adventure in human history? Why do we tolerate the unemployment of countless millions worldwide, when their eager hands could help build it? Oh well, perhaps I'm still just that naive kid, looking up the stars. Dreaming.