Since I’m a bit involved in Explore Mars I got a somewhat closer to one of the first men walking on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Well, probably as close I’ll ever get. Buzz is an advisor to Explore Mars. Still, it must be awesome to the American Explore Mars members to work with Buzz now and then.
Yesterday, August 25th, the other one, Neil Armstrong passed away. Old age got the better of him and he died from complications during a surgery. I was too young when Gagarin died but Neil and Buzz were always there, alive and kicking. It is odd now that the first man on moon isn’t among us anymore.
That first moon landing is now 43 years ago and I’ll bet you that in the many commentaries, blogs, articles, etcetera, the question will asked, “why did we stop at the moon and didn’t we go any further?”. People no doubt will reflect on Armstrong’s death and conclude that manned space got stuck and there was no progress after the Apollo program.
Progress is a relative term. Progress implies a starting point and a direction, when neither is made explicit the usage of the word progress will sound empty. A lot has happened since Apollo, most importantly a fledgling new direction for progress is suggested. Commercial manned space travel, tourist to low earth orbit and perhaps beyond.
Off the beaten track
Sometimes the old direction isn’t perhaps the best one and it is better to choose a new one. In the Space industry this can take a long time, but it is possible. Elon Musk saw that the old way of doing space travel had its best time and started is own rocket company. Musk showed us that there is another way. A new organization, Mars One, completely baffled the mainstream media with their “one way ticket” to Mars. And surprisingly Mars One wasn’t dismissed as a bunch of nutcases.
It will be a long road still towards a Space civilization, whether on Mars or somewhere else. Scientific research is still seen by many, even manned space advocates, as the only reason for our presence in space. Of course this is false and it makes the proponents for manned space travel, like Explore Mars and the Mars Society, an easy target for the opponents of a human presence in space, like the Planetary Society.
Neil Armstrong didn’t do to much about space advocacy, I believe. Buzz Aldrin, on the other hand, is a staunch proponent of humans in space. I hope Buzz will be among us for many years in order to spread the good word. And I hope people will see the Apollo program as just one of many possible direction and not as the last really big achievement of western civilization, because we have done so much more since then.