Thursday, September 8, 2011

What We've Lost

Thanks to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we get to look down on what we've lost:

Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State Univ. / Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The caption at Astronomy Picture Of The Day reads:
This view of the Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus-Littrow valley was captured last month by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the sharpest ever recorded from space. The high resolution image data was taken during a period when LRO's orbit was modified to create a close approach of about 22 kilometers as it passed over some of the Apollo landing sites. That altitude corresponds to only about twice the height of a commercial airline flight over planet Earth. Labeled in this image are Apollo 17 lunar lander Challenger's descent stage (inset), the lunar rover (LRV) at its final parking spot, and the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) left to monitor the Moon's environment and interior. Clear, dual lunar rover tracks and the foot trails left by astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, the last to walk on the lunar surface, are also easily visible at the Apollo 17 site.

Astronomy Picture Of The Day, September 8, 2011
Go to the APOD page for explanatory links and the full size image.

Yes, this is something we've lost. We won't be back to the Moon. Not in my lifetime, and probably not in the lifetime of most of the people reading this. If humans do go back, they will probably be either Chinese, or there will be some form of international expedition. We don't have the vision to do this sort of thing anymore.

I've written before about what an extraordinary effort it was to get to the Moon. It was no easy decision to attempt such a thing at a time when our highest performance flying machines could barely break atmosphere. It was criticized. It was ridiculed. But President Kennedy, and then President Johnson, weathered the storm and saw things through.

When you contrast that with the ceaseless whining about how the current presidential "leadership" is criticized when it throws its supporters under the bus, you really get a sense of how far we've sunk as a nation. When I see seemingly intelligent human beings write that all we can expect are the pathetic achievements of these people, even going so far as to call them historic, it becomes clear why. That's all we expect. We don't expect that they'll even try to solve the problems.

Creating the Tennessee Valley Authority was historic.

Arming ourselves and much of the world by converting our manufacturing base to war production in the middle of a depression, then helping to win the bloodiest war in history was historic. So was converting that manufacturing base back to what it was doing, and helping to rebuild Europe and Japan.

Building the Interstate Highway System in a couple of decades was historic.

Winning civil rights in the Deep South was historic.

Ignoring a failing economy and a corrupt and incompetent financial sector while it delivered our health care into the hands of that same financial system isn't historic. It's corrupt, feckless, and typical of what our government has done for the last couple of decades. Accepting that this is the best it can do is pathetic.

We are getting exactly what we demand of our politicians.

I have no doubt that the engineers, scientists, and aviators of our time are up to the task of exploring other worlds as much as those of the 1960s were. For that matter, they're as up to the task of converting our economy to run on renewable energy, and limiting greenhouse gas emissions as their 1940s counterparts were up to turning our manufacturing base into a war machine. I have no doubt that our medical professionals can take care of us all as well as they take care of those who can afford to pay. I have occasional doubts that our current business leaders are up to the task of making the things and providing the services we need, but I am pretty sure that this is something the market actually can take care of, provided it really is an open market. They'll never be able to do that, though, if we don't ask it of them.

Image credit: Cujo359

If you want a better world, you have to demand it of the people who run it for us. If you're willing to accept nothing, whatever the reason, nothing is all you'll get.

We didn't lose the Moon. What we lost is the will that got us there.

Think about that the next time you look up at it.


One Fly said...

When it was announced we were going to the moon I never doubted it.

Good stuff Cujo!

Cujo359 said...

At the time, I wasn't cynical enough to have such doubts, but I don't think my parents had any, either. Those were different days.