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.