The Last Giant Leap

Forward Motion

The Telegraph takes a survey, and finds out that life is a lot like XKCD:

“In a survey, which reveals “deeply worrying” levels of ignorance about the Apollo space programme, which sent three men to the moon forty years ago this month, 11 out of 1009 people surveyed thought Buzz Lightyear was the first person to step onto the moon. A further 8 people thought it was Louis Armstrong, with less than three-quarters correctly answering that it was Neil Armstrong.

But 75% seems pretty good to me, considering the entire Apollo program started in 1960 and ended before I suspect most of the respondents were born. I mean, throw in a few question about Vostok-1 or the Messerschmitt ME 262, and watch what happens to those numbers when your history lesson has to cross a few borders.

But it occurred to me to look something up when I read that, and I realized that the last manned moon landing was in 1975, a bare five months after I was born. I knew this somehow, viscerally, but…

The last one. The last one, possibly the last one ever. Forty years later, we sit in the bottom of our gravity well and peer out at the universe through one decent orbital telescope (and peering back down with hundreds, I might add) and sending up camcorders on wheels to report back in black and white.

This sort of thing makes me want to cry.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
– JFK, 1960.

And then, as a followup, nothing. Screw you, baby boomers. Your generation has been a blight on every facet of the landscape, and you owe me a rocketship future.


  1. Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Given a choice between rockets and Wikipedia, I take Wikipedia.

  2. Mike Richters
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    If memory serves, I heard Jerry Pournelle say (at some event at MIT) “I was sure I would see the first man on the moon. I never dreamed I’d see the last.”

    In defense of all those satellites looking down, there is a lot more of interest to us in that direction.

  3. Jamie
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Though I agree with the general point, there are more than just one decent orbital telescopes (and not all in the visible light spectrum). Off the top of my head, Spitzer (IR), Compton (gamma Ray), Chandra (X-Ray), Corot (V), Kepler (V) – just launched, and MOST (Canadian content, and the one I happen to work on :) ). Hubble gets the best PR cuz its pictures are so purtty.

  4. mhoye
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Koz, this is not an either-or thing.

  5. Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    “In defense of all those satellites looking down, there is a lot more of interest to us in that direction” – I believe that is the point of the lament, yes.

  6. Posted July 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one bothered by how slowly the “space age” is moving. Thirty years into the Space Shuttle missions, and we still can’t get them right!