As you can tell from the Google headline logo above, we are supposed to be celebrating the 40 years that have passed since that small step for man. But that’s the problem isn’t it, what these 40 years have proved is that it was indeed a small step, the giant leap for mankind never materialised, certainly not as far as the exploration of space is concerned. I suppose the fact that I can write this and publish it on the internet so you can read it is about as near to any great leap that has happened in the last 40 years. Or am I being unkind? Perhaps the work being done by the many satellites up there, providing communications and mapping across the earth might also be considered “giant”, although all of these things would have happened with or without us hearing “the Eagle has landed”. And as the Chinese have proved, this web of intelligent space debris is a pretty fragile thing so I’m sure there’s a way to go before that’s considered to be ‘properly done’ no matter how impressive the results appear to be down here in the gravity belt.
Don’t get me wrong, the moon landing was a wonderful thing. I was 10 at the time and been living in London for three years in the delightful end of terrace shown below courtesy of Google Street View. The neighbourhood has clearly gone downhill since we left. We used to have a front garden, not a parking lot and rubbish dump! The biggest change, I suspect, is the more than subtle whiff of “Eau De Balti Prawn” you’d encounter if you were standing there right now!
So, we may have gathered around our black & white TV, probably a relatively recent purchase in fact as when we moved in here we only had a radio – and dad used to whip us every morning while mum boiled some old shoelaces for breakfast! I can’t say I have strong memories of watching the event and having called my parents this morning neither do they! “We didn’t watch the TV very often but I’m sure we did watch the moon landing.”, is the best we can come up with. Bit of an anti-climax really but probably because it was an American thing, my dad’s not great with American things. I called at the weekend and we discussed the golf, which he said he was watching. I said something like “Wouldn’t it be great if Tom Watson could win!”, thinking that having an old man win the open might be considered good news for a wrinkly. “I’d rather see any of the British guys win”, was the reply. Oh well, some deep rooted dislike of Americans is my diagnosis, must delve into that one day, probably something to do with the war.
Mind you, I just looked it up and the actual time of the “small step” was 22:56 Eastern Standard Time on the 20th, that would be 04:56 on the 21st in London so it is quite possible we were sleeping. Typical Yankee trick to keep all the fun for their own evening entertainment! :)
And so, 40 years on and we still await the “great leap” of continued space exploration. Hubble is fun, some of the probes have also been interesting but we really should get out there and spend a lot more face time with these planets. It’ll take everyone’s mind off trivia here on earth. I actually have a feeling that this might just be going through a few politicians minds right now, how to get people focussed on some bigger purpose and stop whining about petty local difficulties. I also think the thought of China being the big stars of the next era of space exploration might just wake people up a little. Still, China more or less owns the US these days as far as all the media goes (prudent Chinese savings fund American excesses) so perhaps there’s not much difference between NASA and SINO anyway.
An aside – the funniest part of the conversation with my parents today was discussing some geezer who was the husband (now ex) of some mate of my sister’s…too complicated. Anyway, this guy came, I assume, from Central or Eastern Europe as the information was passed to me as “He was from, you know, one of those type of countries over where you are.”. Couldn’t be any clearer, could it? Bless them!