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Shoot for the Moon Shoot for the Moon
by Jack Wellman
2009-07-20 10:54:48
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All our mouths were wide open…staring in awe and wonder. We just could not believe it. We were all witnessing something that would we would never forget. It would forever change our world. The first humans ever, have now set foot on another planet….well, it is a moon technically. But it mattered not. It was like "Star Trek"…in our lifetime. The toys to have when a young child at the time often were rockets. Store bought, bottle-rocket fed juice cans…whatever we could find. We had no money for the ones that had parachutes for when they returned to the earth after “launch”.
 
When the newly inaugurated John F. Kennedy announced during his Inaugural Address, that the U.S. was going to land a man of the moon before this decade (1960s) is over, hardly anyone I knew believed it could be done, particularly at the time. And given the horrendous space program track record of NASA it seemed impossible. So far, the U.S. space flight program had mostly met with catastrophic accidents, astronaut deaths, and huge cost overruns. Most people thought we’d be lucky to just get men into orbit without blowing them up on the launching pad.
 
July 20th, 2009 is the 40th anniversary of man landing on the Moon.  If you remember this, then you know just how incredible that goal sounded at the time. President Kennedy said:

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
 - President Kennedy, May 25, 1961 [1]
 
Considering the recent disaster of the U. S. in the space race, it seemed to be inconceivable and the 25 billion dollars budgeted for it was the largest ever at the time for any nation (excluding World Wars). But the trail of technological advances is so broad in spectrum, that the world would be forever changed. The effect this computerized wake has left is before us everywhere; in fact before our very eyes. One such part is that of your of reading this and my having sent this by e-mail, nearly half way across the globe, and faster than the speed of sound! The only thing faster in those days was tax statements (kidding).
 
If the advances came by necessity, the incidental acquiescence of programming, technology and instant telecommunications has been incidental. Also huge advances came to computers, avionics, mechanical and civil engineering, electrical engineering, and others. Evidence of this increase of knowledge is as simple as turning something (just about anything) on. As a young child, I see today the profound residual effect of this technology, and on a global scale.
 
One must not forget to give credit to the Germans. They are actually the first nation to achieve a sub-orbital spaceflight. Nazi Germany’s V2 rockets were used during World War, yet few need to be reminded that Germany was instrumental in rocketry technologically. They were easily the most advanced. At that time, there were few equals to the many brilliant German engineers and scientists. You might say they were the charter members of the intergalactic space club. Indeed, mentors to all of the other scientists in the world.
 
The 1960s may have been the single greatest jump in technological, engineering, computer, and scientific advancement that has ever occurred. Gigantic leaps in knowledge are at such an incredible rate that there is little time for thought of technology racing ahead of ethics - the proverbial “Pandora’s Box”. Once opened, it cannot be shut. Now people can steal your ID through your computer, or Social Security number, or listen in on your wireless communications….or… Advances have also made it much easier to spy on people, eavesdrop on communications and infringe on people’s right to privacy.
 
The late John F. Kennedy shot for the Moon. And he hit it. It has made the impossible then, probable today. Of course he didn’t live to see it. Even so, as the Germans deserved proper credit for their rocketry science (we must certainly go back to the Chinese to give them credit, even before the Germans). But as maligned as the late president was, he did ignite a fire under the oven of necessity. The advances were born of necessity, and necessity is said to be the “mother of inventions”. If the necessity was to land a man on the moon, then the technology of the moon landing was the mother of all inventions.
 
1. John F. Kennedy, "Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs", May 25, 1961.

   
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