Inspiring and Depressing at the same time

Last night I finished watching a series called "From the earth to the moon". I think it was the first of Tom Hanks' forays into docu-drama (coming after the movie Apollo 13).

As you might guess from the title the series follows the events leading up to the first landing on the moon and afterwards to the final Apollo mission in 1972. As a series it is an excellent examination of the people involved in the American Space effort, from Astronauts to their wives, to the contractors and everyone else involved.

What it did for me was to bring home how far short we have fallen from the promise offered by the Apollo missions themselves. If the momentum had been maintained, Apollo could have been the stepping stone to the next wave of human exploration. By now we wouldn't be marvelling at the staying power of a couple of Rovers on Mars, but instead we'd be marvelling at the fact that the human species had set foot on another planet, not just our celestial partner, but a whole other world.

Today we are told that it's better to send probes and rovers to other worlds. Less of a risk, cheaper and so on. Feh I say. The USSR sent a probe to the moon, then the US sent two men to the moon, which is more inspiring? Which is more likely to stir the blood?

So yes, "From the earth to the moon" is an inspiring series, it details what can be done when there is the will to move forward and achieve something great. However it's also depressing to see where the evaporation of that will has left us.

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Comments

 I blame inflation.

My wife bought me NASA's "When we left Earth" about the same story only probably more factual and broader (from the Gemini program up to how the Hubble was fixed). It was a birthday present since I was born on the very day that Apollo 11 landed back on earth :). I highly recommend it. I watched the entire series at least 3 times now and I hardly find time to watch TV in general so it must say something.

I haven't watched Tom Hanks' work, though.

The bottom line they say there (or in one of the appendixes) is that the Apollo program took something around 4% of the natioanl GDP for USA while it was running, and the oil crisis in the early 70's made it impossible to sustain.

It's a shame anyway, that's true.

 Hi Amos, 

Thanks for the recommendation I'll track it down and have a look. As to the GDP argument, yup I'll accept those numbers, considering they ramped up from just working out how ICBM's could work to landing people on the moon in ten years.

However today, we wouldn't be starting from scratch. Instead we'd be building on top the work that has happened in the past forty years. Hell we've even got a known way to get to the moon, the key would be to upgrading and scaling up for larger crews and possible base type installations.

Hi James,

Some interesting points, but consider the positive aspect also:

We live in an age were commodity technology is such that we can choose to get involved in Space Science.

This is the underlying value behind all the work of Lunar Numbat.

http://www.lunarnumbat.org/

Quit your complaining, Lunar Numbat needs you and I've got lots of work for you to do. ;) Hop back in the LN IRC chan for starters.

Cheers,
Marco