Greg Redfern, wtop.com
For Friday's "What's Up: The Space Place" blog at Fox 5, I had blogged a question to my readers that asked, "Did You Remember?"
I wanted to know if they remembered the significance of the date July 20, 1969 -- the day that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.
Obviously, the 43rd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing in the Sea of Tranquility in their Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) Eagle, was not mentioned. Instead, we were all trying to understand how a brilliant and promising scientific mind in the skull of James Holmes could allegedly unleash such wanton violence on fellow human beings.
Did you remember the anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon? Even if you did, I am sure it was lost in the events of Aurora. But on that terrible Friday, to me, it became even more important to remember the Apollo 11 lunar landing because it provided needed contrast to what human beings are capable of.
Apollo 11 was the culmination of a national goal set by a president who was murdered before he could see it accomplished - providing yet again a contrast in human behavior. We as a people and a nation dedicated our collective financial resources and political will to accomplishing what was considered impossible - "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth" as stated by President Kennedy in his landmark speech at Rice University September 12, 1962.
To go to the Moon in less than seven years when we had just reached manned Earth orbit mission capability is simply astonishing. Contrast that time frame to this one: the Wright Brothers' first powered flight was on December 17, 1903, and Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier October 14, 1947 - a span of 44 years or almost the same amount of time since Apollo 11.
We have achieved much in space since Apollo 11, involving both manned and unmanned missions. We have also endured and suffered greatly from the opposite end of human behavior events like Holmes. But to survive as a species humanity must go into space to find the resources and room for expansion that has been a crucial component to our growth.
Whether we are discussing the discovery of "the New World" by Christopher Columbus and its' subsequent colonization, or how and where "the New World" in the solar system will be established and inhabited by the ancestors of Apollo 11, the necessity to do so is the same. If we are to endure we must go regardless of costs in lives or treasure. Failure to do so will be the beginning of our end.
Our nation is in a tumultuous period in its history, unlike any we have endured before. There are great challenges facing us and we are so divided in our response to them that there is no response as a result. Out of control bipartisan politics has gridlocked our ability to do almost anything.
Apollo 11 stands as a shining beacon that shows what national unity of purpose and purity of focused will can accomplish in a very short period of time. It is a standard for us to follow in whatever task we as a nation deem vital. But we need a task to which we can apply Apollo 11's standards to, and that I am afraid, is the biggest challenge we face.
I hope that Holmes's alleged actions will not overshadow those accomplished by the crew of Apollo 11 each year on July 20. Only time will tell.
See what's up in the sky this week.
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