Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rest in peace, Neil Alden Armstrong

I had this National Geographic book on my bookshelf as a kid in the early 1980s.

I thought of it today a couple hours after hearing about the death of Neil Armstrong. I thought of it because the family was out doing some shopping and it struck me how little "space" stuff (beyond Star Wars and Star Trek, of course) there is in our consumer culture.

We love dragons and elves and the Titanic and superheroes and Abraham Lincoln1 and sexy vampires and all sorts of things. But you don't really see our society — or our children — interested in the cosmos, as it once was. The moon and the planets and the stars and real space exploration are not considered cool or important. (To the point that some journalists, apparently, don't know the difference between Neil Armstrong and Neil Young.) It's fine to argue about how much money we should be budgeting for space exploration. But it's not fine, in my opinion, to devalue the cultural importance of space exploration. We should always be reaching for the stars, and caring about the people who did.

I am reminded of the final lines spoken by Jim Lovell in "Apollo 13":
"I sometimes catch myself looking up at the moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home. I look up at the moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?"
1. I said to my 12-year-old daughter today: "Did you know there's a new movie about Abraham Lincoln coming out this winter?" And she replied, "Yes. Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires."

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