Saturday, 18 July 2009

Forty Years

How about the picture? Does that stir something deep inside?

It’s been quite a week for recalling the heady days of the Apollo programme. But what has surprised me is the number of people I’ve spoken to who don’t remember it – at all! This is not because they have bad memories it’s because they weren’t even born at the time. This comes as quite a shock. Some of these children are forty! What happened there? For me all the memories of Apollo are fresh, as if it only happened a few short years ago. I’ve come to realise that I share this world with quite a lot of people who regard Apollo as a dry history-book episode rather than as that wonderous, breathtaking, live event that I clambered out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to watch live on telly.

I miss it. I hate that it’s history. I want it back.

It’s frustrating each time there’s an announcement: we’ll go back to the moon, we’ll go to Mars – and then it all fizzles out. Come on Barak, I know the globe is a bit strapped for cash at the moment, but how about another Kennedy-esque announcement that we’re going to do something big and bold and mad before this decade is out (or I suppose it’ll have to be the next decade – it might be a bit too bold to expect something by Christmas). Those who worry about the money, the cost, don’t really get it. NASA didn’t send all that money into space at all. The bits that went up into space were just a minor part of it. The real money stayed on Earth, in the US, and grew. Investment encourages investment. Just like Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 30’s it does no harm to spend a bit on grand schemes when things get are getting a bit rocky in the economy.
You’ll notice, by the way, my use of the royal ‘we’. I’m a Brit. My particular ‘we’ would be hard pressed to move a man from here to the Asda car-park (and return him safely) by rocket. Men on the moon are a bit out of our league at the moment. So we’re relying on you guys in the US to pull-off another big one. China could do it sometime soon, but then it wouldn’t be on the telly, so what use would that be to any of us. The US would have HD cameras and live internet feeds, and the astronauts would be on Twitter!
Anyway, there’s another TV documentary about to start, so I’m off to get a bit more of the space-geek out of my system. Oh and tomorrow I’m off to Jodrell Bank for an Apollo anniversary special in the shadow of the big dish. Can’t wait.

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