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Half a Century Since What May Well Be Mankind’s Greatest Achievement Yet

There’s little point in writing another post on this topic today, but I’ll nevertheless add at least a quick one to mark this anniversary of 50 years since what may well be mankind’s greatest achievement yet. Those looking for details, whether about the actual events, the celebrations or even plans for the future, such as they are, can easily find them elsewhere, obviously starting with the dedicated section of the NASA site or just the articles posted there yesterday or today, but I also stumbled upon the content package on Smithsonian, and there’s of course the long piece in this month’s issue of National Geographic. I also found National Geographic’s documentary, made only with material from back then and without narration or new interviews, quite interesting, pointing out both the good and the bad.
That should be quite enough for the links, but I will add one more, to an article on Space.com that quotes someone very correctly pointing out that the Moon landing may be the most important event yet if it’s a step towards something greater, but that’s very much in question at the moment, and has been starting almost immediately after it happened. After all, while that sort of dedication and determination to achieve something that seems pretty much impossible is an example of what’d be very much needed now as well, for quite a few issues in fact, it was done for completely wrong reasons… Which is just as true for the current plans for exploration, motivated by the inflated egos of certain wealthy individuals, the search for profit of some private companies, the desire to obtain resources from other celestial bodies in order to continue consuming in this manner despite draining this planet, or even that to establish a second home to escape to once we’ll destroy Earth.
Was also saying these things after the Cassini mission ended, and before that, mentioning our great failure five, and seven, and eight years ago, with quite a number of other links in those posts as well, for anyone interested. Admittedly, a little more than eight years ago I was also saying that putting humans on other planets is quite pointless and may even be dangerous, making it even less likely that we’ll learn to live in harmony with the one we’re currently on, again referring to the wrong potential motivations for such attempts by stressing that space exploration “needs to be a scientific endeavor in the purest sense, not concerned with short-term practical applications or any direct relevance to our current life on Earth, and certainly in no way connected to any economic interests“. Didn’t take egos into account back then, nor a possible new space race prompted by a new and different sort of cold war, but those additions just strengthen the case against just getting actual people to Mars or, eventually, beyond with things as they are right now, while at the same time in no way negating those in favor of both putting far, far more efforts and resources into sending machines to explore ever farther and in more detail, and getting people back on the Moon, this time permanently.
We need to advance science, advance knowledge, by going out there, and while, at this moment, there’s little practical reason for people to go to Mars or beyond and many reasons not to, many of the important ones not having to do with technology and actually being able to get and stay there in the strictest sense, humans do need to go to space. That’s also because there are things actual people still need to do out there for science, but even more so in order to inspire others, and for that change in mentality generated by looking at Earth from somewhere else. After all, “we went to the Moon, and we discovered Earth“… And how we have forgotten it after we stopped going. We now have much more information about Earth than we did half a century ago, but at the same time we have forgotten Earth itself.
We need a handful of scientists, or at least people with enough of a background in science, on space stations, and more and bigger and better space stations for them. We also need them on the Moon, in a permanent settlement, and possibly on a few missions on some asteroids that happen to get close enough. But, above that, we simply need people, human eyes and human minds and, if I may use the term, human souls, to get out there again, far enough to see all of Earth against the blackness of space but close enough to still make out details without the use of any aids, and preferably while standing on a celestial body that is nothing like Earth in terms of supporting life. We need them there to see and think and feel and truly understand, and we need them to communicate all of that to those still here, from the most powerful to the masses.
Chris Hadfield showed that a small part of that can be achieved even from a space station, but it’s far from enough. We can’t do that from a space station and we definitely can’t do it from Mars. We need to go back to the Moon to discover more about the universe, but even more so we need to return to the Moon, for the right reasons and with the right mindset, to rediscover Earth. Some can be sufficiently aware while still down here, but most obviously can’t, and it must be done before it’s too late, and we must stay there once it is done, considering how quickly most forget. The Earth itself, not to mention the other celestial bodies, will carry on just fine whether we do or don’t, but for most other at least relatively advanced species we currently share this tiny oasis with, as well as for the tremendous majority of humans, it may well be the last chance. The efforts made down here definitely don’t seem to be getting anywhere, or at least certainly in no way fast enough.

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