That’s One Small Step …But I Digress

apollo11-crew

Blogsters! Since it is summertime where in Texas that means “stay inside swaddled in ozone-killing AC, assisted by high powered fans whilst sipping iced coffee” I have some time to knock out some CFFS HQ posts.

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Full disclosure:

A. I really prefer French press coffee, but the “iced coffee” somehow sounded better in context.

B. Most folks run blissfully outside to embrace this kind of weather. I never understood that.

C. As I am of English-Gemanic blazingly light-skinned heritage and need to drop around 40 lbs of toxic-laden fat (YIKES! I hope you’re not eating while you read this)…going outside to “soak up some sun” never made it onto my daily to-do list.

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So, what were we talking about? Right, we weren’t yet. How ’bout this: Upon reading a post by my good friend Paul McKee on Facebook today, I realized that exactly forty four years ago on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong took his historic stroll on the moon, followed by the less heralded but equally heroic Buzz Aldrin (at least his first name made it into the world of Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story) With the wonderful words “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind”

Of course, we must add the caveat that what Neil meant to say and claims to have actually said (static seems to have covered up the syllable) was “That’s one small step for A man…one giant leap for mankind.” Makes more sense, no? But we have always been a forgiving people when it comes to quotes that don’t seem to make sense. How about this one from my favorite movie The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy learns how to leave The Emerald City:

…if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

OK, so…if you can’t find your heart’s desire, and it isn’t in your backyard…don’t you have a serious problem as far as the whole “finding your heart’s desire” issue? I really still don’t understand that quote, but who cares? When Judy Garland says something, you just agree..happily.

(Wheeeeeew doggies! A digression worthy of some kind of award, wasn’t it?)

But what about today: July 20, 2013 and 44 years ago when Neil and Buzz actually landed on another world! To me, this begs the question: “Why haven’t we been doing more of this since Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt via Apollo 17 took their walk-about on Luna and ended the great moon adventure?”

Here are some potential answers gleaned from the Internet:

1. Costs too much. We are in enough fiscal trouble already. NASA was defunded too deeply and simply can’t afford it.

2. Been there, done that. No more international space race. No need to go back.

3. The Apollo program was a success and we got all we needed. No need to do more.

and my favorite:

4. We were told to leave by the aliens who were already there!

MAN! Now that is some fine sci-fi style conspiracy stuff eh? I like to think that #4 is true. Why not? It makes for a cooler story and a much more interesting reality. I do have a problem though: I live a dichotomy that I like to call “Occam’s Conspiracy.”

Let me explain:

I am a firm believer in the English philosopher and theologian William of Ockham’s statement on parsimony known as “Occam’s Razor” which states essentially that “The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.” Now, try to mix that with the fact that I love “conspiracy theories” in all their arcane Rube Goldberg glory. I believe there is a nugget of truth in most of them…but that truth must be mined at the expense of Father Ockham’s divine reasoning. So, what to do?

Enjoy science fiction.

That is yet another reason I created The Dover Stone universe…or reality as I would like to see it. (YES! Another Dover Stone plug…success! Download your free excerpt copy today! 🙂 )

But what about our friends from Apollo 11? It has been so long since we have had an adventure of this sort that we have already lost Neil Armstrong. At the time of this writing, the last surviving members of that historic crew Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are happily still with us. Buzz even wrote a wonderful sci-fi novel (written with John Barnes titled “Encounter with Tiber” a very fun read…I recommend it!) But why haven’t we gone back? We are firmly into the second decade of the 21st Century and nowhere beyond near Earth orbit. Did anyone in science fiction see this one coming?

613px-Barack_Obama_with_Apollo_11_crew_in_the_Oval_Office_2009-07-20

L-R: Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and President Barack Obama during the 2009 celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11

So what up? I don’t know, but I do know there are lots of opinions out there that I look forward to hearing. For me, every July 20 I remember with great fondness that day back in 1969 when we all gathered around the small black and white TV in our den at our family home on South 21st Ave in Hattiesburg Mississippi and watched that grainy transmission from Tranquility Base (sorry all of you fellow conspiracists who still believe that said mission was faked by Marty Scorsese…I draw the line at that one) and hope against hope that we will someday return to space. It’s kind of like studying jazz, indeed pursuing the arts across the board—learning, knowledge and exploration for the sake of humanity. Sounds grandiose, because it is.

I say: in the spirit of Apollo 11 and Tranquility Base, let’s continue to reach out and boldly go where no one has gone before (I updated that quote…but I know you won’t mind 🙂 You go Bill Shatner…my BOY!

Speaking of Bad Boy William Shatner…check this out!

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About swiest2

Steve Wiest is a Trombonist-Composer-Cartoonist-Author and Coordinator of The 21st Century Music Initiative at The Lamont School of Music: The University of Denver
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6 Responses to That’s One Small Step …But I Digress

  1. Kevin Brunkhorst says:

    Don’t misunderstand me – I’m in favor of the space program. (If you know me, you know I’ve spent years of my life in space.) That we no longer bother with much of it disturbs me, as we must eventually take a long view. Sure, the ‘space race’ is over, but that wasn’t science, it was politics.

    NASA is funded by the government, ultimately taxpayers. However, the resulting advances in technology (and there have been many…) always end up in the hands of defence contractors, who profit from them. An agency of the public buys their technology, and the fruits of R&D go back to them, and they sell stuff to us again. This is not sustainable, unless everyone owns shares in the defence industry.

    Either (a) future programs will have to come from the private sector, or (b) somehow, the government will have to be able to recoup on intellectual property derived from exploration.

    • swiest2 says:

      Well said Kevin. I think that I tend to subscribe to your point “A.” While no doubt the private sector’s pursuit of space exploration will be shaped by the powerful needs of the “bottom line,” there will hopefully be less politics and military contracting involved. Probably a naive position, but one that I hope will ultimately play out. Once we get everyone into the scene competing with one another to “get there first” we will probably go many places indeed.

      AND…there is the absolutely terrifying point about overpopulation that Dan Brown explores in his newest offering “Inferno” that would ultimately be alleviated by extraterrestrial colonization. So…what are we waiting for?

      (Dan Brown’s new book: http://www.amazon.com/Inferno-Dan-Brown/dp/0385537859 )

  2. Joanna says:

    Ok…here’s a short list (It’s really really long) of things I have thankful to NASA for:
    Artificial limbs
    Baby formula
    Cell-phone cameras
    Computer mouse
    Cordless tools
    Ear thermometer
    Firefighter gear
    Freeze-dried food
    Golf clubs
    Long-distance communication
    Invisible braces
    MRI and CAT scans
    Memory foam
    Safer highways
    Solar panels
    Shoe insoles
    Ski boots
    Adjustable smoke detector
    Water filters
    UV-blocking sunglasses

  3. swiest2 says:

    ¡Bravo! Joanna! Just a few of the reasons why we should all be very thankful that we went to the moon. Thank you NASA indeed. And just think of the huge list that would be generated if we went back and beyond! Thanks mucho for this grand reminder to all of us 🙂

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