Wishing for a return to full-fledged space travel

It was 48 years ago. A giant rocket sat on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.. Perched atop that beastly Saturn rocket was a space ship carrying three men.

They would make history a few days later on that Apollo 11 mission. But on July 16, 1969, they launched into the sky, took off into orbit, then fired those on-board rockets to propel them to the moon.

The late Neil Armstrong set foot first on the moon. A little while later, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin hopped off the ladder onto the sandy lunar soil. Meanwhile, their crewmate Michael Collins circled above, orbiting moon.

The world — the entire planet — held its breath as Armstrong proclaimed he was taking “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” We cheered, cried and prayed for their safe return.

Space travel hadn’t yet become “routine,” as if it ever should have been thought of in that light. The Apollo missions would put several more men on the moon. Then we would have Skylab and then the shuttle program.

They’re all gone now. All those missions are history. Yes, Americans are still flying into space, but they’re doing so aboard Russian rockets. Try to imagine how President Kennedy would feel about that!

I am old enough to remember the old days. I also am young enough at heart to wish for the day we can return yet again to full-fledged space travel — even though it’s never routine.

2 thoughts on “Wishing for a return to full-fledged space travel”

  1. Since you considerably predate me, it’s quite likely you’ve been a Space Kid longer than I. Before girls and cars occupied my spare time I was devouring books – with lots of “hard SF” in the mix. None of the old-school stories I read had man on the Moon before 1978 – an unusual instance of life outrunning SF-art.

    I lost respect for Pres Carter when he participated in cutting Apollo short (missions 18 and 19 without looking it up). The Hope and Change president added a page to that regrettable book when he let the Shuttle program die on the vine without a successor ready-to-go.

    Those two are hardly alone. Bush II did the “vision thing” with a speech addressing manned missions to the Moon and Mars. In this he was “all hat and no cattle” with no adequate funding proposal nor bully-pulpit follow-up.

    Still, I’m glad for NASA’s fabulous series of probes and space telescopes. For a given fixed budget, unmanned science missions give much greater bang for the buck.

    And, it’s good to see Musk and Branson pursue private rocketry. With enough “crowdfunding” and billionaire-money, the next manned missions may well be mostly, if not entirely, private.

    1. Thanks for your comment, as always. Let me set the record straight on a couple of points. Apollo 17 landed on the moon in 1972; President Nixon was in office at the time. The end of that program predates the Carter admin by several years. As for the end of the shuttle program, that was initiated by the G.W. Bush administration; President Obama merely followed through with what already was in place.

Leave a Reply