If they can put a Man on the Moon…

By Will Baker

 

I remember being a young boy and sitting around our television set with my family as we watched in awe as Neil Armstrong stepped upon the surface of the moon. I have no doubt that many people around the world share this same memory. That moment has forever changed my perspective on things. To this day, whenever I look up at the moon, which is a frequent occurrence, I imagine all of the footprints and the abandoned gear we have left there. President Kennedy, and the U.S. and Russian space programs did me a huge favor. The whole experience demonstrated to me that, if one is bold enough to aspire to that which to many might be deemed an outlandish notion, and if sufficient resources are applied, truly almost anything is possible. This realization has served me well. It helps me to think big. And when I am feeling bad about our species, it succors me. But what was it all about, and where do we go from here?

So much time has passed since then that it almost seems that it was a dream. I have many important recollections in my life that feel like they occurred only yesterday, but not this one. When I tell my daughter about it she peers at me with a look of astonishment. I know that she must have a hard time fathoming what we have done, and for that matter, so do I. She asked me why we sent people to the moon, and I found myself at a loss to answer her. It seems to me this deed was born partly out of a climate of intense competition between the United States and Russia. But even if each respective country feared that the other would make it to the moon first, is that a real answer. Why did folks explore the jungles? Why were the oceans charted? Why did the bear climb the mountain, to get to the other side I guess?

So we made trips to the moon. We flew around it and landed upon it. We collected moon rocks and brought them home. We drove buggies upon its surface and we even played golf there. And of course, we planted our flag. It is some how ironic that in the timelessness of space, those things that we left upon the surface of the moon might very well outlive human kind itself. When I try to understand what the event was all about I think about how proud the accomplishment made me to be a human being. President Nixon spoke to Neil Armstrong and his crew while they were on the moon and he said, "for one shining moment the people of the Earth are united as one." He was right. When we say, we put a man on the moon, the "we" does not refer to America only, but to all the peoples of the world. So I guess it was about pride in being a human being, and the unity that a major global accomplishment can bring.

But the moment was fleeting. Countless things have occurred since then that makes me embarrassed for my race. There is strife everywhere, and avarice and greed abounds. Yet there is love and hope also. Not to mention the faith and hope that I feel that we can somehow rise above all this. If we can put a man on the moon, surely no one need go hungry, but they do.

It seems to me that the act of exploration is all about learning more about ourselves. I would argue that we are drawn into space, just as we were drawn to explore the world in which we live. I seem to remember that the moon was to be a launching pad for further exploration. Although some folks are saddened that, since the lunar missions we haven’t done more is this regard, I am not. I believe that the Apollo space program has given us a glimpse into the future, and that it was way ahead of its time. It seems to me that we will eventually return to space exploration in earnest, and that we must. We are all children of the sun after all.

 

(Essay Collection)