20 July 2009 (Monday) - Forty Years Ago

Forty years ago today, men first walked on the moon. I don’t actually remember Apollo 11, but I can remember the world-wide panic when Apollo 13 got into difficulties, and I can remember sprinting home from school at dinner time to see whatever the astronauts had been up to. And having watched the moon landings, I confidently looked forward to a bright future in which humanity expanded.

There are those who seem to confuse human expansion into space with fanciful science fiction. But they are wrong. The urge to explore is something fundamental to humanity – ever since the first cave man wondered what was on the other side of the first hill he found. And so that was what I was expecting as a child – a world with orbital laboratories, colonies on the Moon, Mars, and the satellites of the outer planets. Instead, after Neil Armstrong’s “Giant Leap” humanity has taken a “Big Stand Still”, and will be standing still for at least another ten years.

In between work I phoned the prison to book my next visit. I got through relatively quickly this time – it only took seven hours for them to answer. But the visit is booked. If it takes as long to get through next time I shall complain to the governor. I wonder what his response might be.

And then in keeping with the astronomical theme of the day I left work and went straight to the committee meeting of the astro club. I was only an hour late, and managed to miss pretty much everything. Sometimes I detest late shifts. But the view of the sunset from the pub was rather pretty….

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