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This Week in History
July 20-26, 2014

First Moon Landing and Safe Return to Earth
July 20-24, 1969

Mankind's Future Is In Space

by Marsha Freeman

Forty five years ago, on July 20, 1969, the majority of the world's population watched or listened as the first representative of human civilization completed a quarter-million-mile journey, and stepped upon the surface of the Moon. This was not seen by the astronauts who participated, or the leadership of the U.S. space program who made the mission possible, as anything less than a "giant leap for mankind," as Neil Armstrong said.            

What the Apollo program created, in terms of new technology, new scientists and engineers, and other tangible contributions, is less profound than the cultural optimism, as an extension of the promises made by President Kennedy, created by meeting the challenge of a mission that was necessary, but appeared to border on the impossible.            

After the lunar landing, it became common fare, when faced with a frustrating problem, to remark, "if we could go to the Moon, why couldn't we do X, Y or Z?" Why not, indeed?            

The 45 years since that singular moment has seen a reflection of the cultural pessimism wrought by the counter-culture, the drug epidemic, the "limits to growth" growth of green fascism, and other deprivations, in the state of our space program today. Nations that began their space exploration missions decades after ours, are moving ahead, as we fall further and further behind. The take-down of NASA has not escaped the notice of the American people. An informal poll taken by this writer found among public school teachers, 8th grade students, young parents, and one rabbi, that their view is that the U.S. has no space program, and that it was killed by President Obama.            

The optimism that was expressed by the words and the actions of the BRICS nations last week recalls a time when the U.S. was an example to the rest of the world of what can be accomplished, and how the future can be brought in to being.