Magnificent Desolation... No More?

Courtesy Chasing the Moon

In my next life, will I be born on the Moon?

That’s a real possibility now that minerals and frozen water have been found.

Why did the thought of returning to the Moon take 50 years?

Why did we as a global society catch then release such a gigantic fish?
Courtesy NASA
And why is it on this half century anniversary of Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s boots making permanent indents upon the arid Moon scape powder that I, a citizen of that Space Age, feel so alone and adrift?

I, we, should be grateful. So many mother-of-necessity objects were born out of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights. (Nooo, the orange drink, Tang, and Velcro were not direct inventions, but it always sounded good.)

  • ·        LASIK/LADAR docking systems
  • ·        Space blankets
  • ·        Scratch resistant lenses
  • ·        Artificial limbs
  • ·        Water purification systems
  • ·        Air scrubbers
  • ·        Solar cells
  • ·        Freeze drying
  • ·        Portable cordless vacuums
  • ·        Memory foam
  • ·        De-icing machines
  • ·        Infrared ear thermometers

Whole communities bloomed in Huntsville, Alabama and Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Houston crawled out of the oil rigs and embarked on a new age industry.

And science fiction finally docked with science fact, pairing with equal force people like Isaac Asimov to Werner von Braun.



Political will.


For these last 50 years, the world only lacked the political will.

We figuratively put a dust cover over the Moon and hung a Gone Fishing sign at the Sea of Tranquility. And in that time…

The planted US flag hung in frozen animation.

The lunar lander sat undisturbed.

The lunar rover roved not one inch.

And no more astronaut boot prints were stamped on the Moon scape.
And I grew up. We all did. Through global wars and famine and civil unrest.

And Kennedy died. And LBJ died.

And so did Asimov, von Braun and Neil Armstrong.

And with them went their imagination, their passion and their innovation.

Political will became an orphan and it birthed little funding.

And Einstein’s fabric of time and space weaved and wandered on… a planet and a people adrift.

It was an innocent time in the ‘60s, an era where Kennedy said we can dream the impossible, and we did. Humans were not jaded back then. If a leader said we could, then by God, we damn well would! Freedom loving nations rooted for the U.S. to beat the U.S.S.R. to the Moon if not for the love of competition, for the fear of oppression. There was every worry that in the near future, Khrushchev would rain down on the western world tiny atomic bomb Sputniks, and we’d all be no more.

When we won the space race and the leaders poo-pooed von Braun’s quest for Mars, NASA’s flame burned down to a flicker, and Walter Cronkite stopped broadcasting from Cape Canaveral and instead donned a flack jacket and opined from the DMZ in Vietnam. The world returned to its egocentric and myopic ways and man hungered to fight from within than to reach for without, yet if we had bothered to take a moment away from our navel gazing and look up, we would have seen and heard the Man in the Moon cry. I’m sure of it.

On this eve of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins conquering that big grey ball, I wonder how much wonder is left in us.

July 16, 1969, the newsmen said was a “giddy day,” and by all accounts it truly was. 

My original National Geographic

One million spectators had amassed at Cocoa Beach the night before, and by midday, millions more around the world gathered at whatever TV set they could find to watch humans leave this earthly realm.

My original National Geographic

Apollo 11 launched at 3:17 p.m., EST. Witnesses on the Cape said the reverberations were so strong that pant legs fluttered back and forth some 3.5 miles away from the launch pad.

I was five years old, and for some reason I was sleeping — a child’s nap, maybe — and so I missed the live broadcast but saw the launch in a replay that evening. I knew by my parent’s demeanour this event was important, and I had better sear it into my wee brain.

Yet, the grainy black and white images and their heady meaning were rather lost on me. I must have had a blank and/or slightly confused look on my face because my mother kept saying, “See, Barbie, we’re on the Moon! We’re on the Moon!” A child’s mind doesn’t get the figurative over the literal, so I was pretty sure I was still living in the same place I had always been these 1,972 days of my long life, and no place I had ever been looked like where these men were on TV.  But a part of me knew even then, this way, this time, this moment, I shall never pass again.

No matter. Surety or confusion, the same emotions abounded, then as now…

Steam hisses and falls to the ground from the main rocket engines. A flip board countdown clock agonizingly counts down to 0. Engines ignite. REAL fire and fury. The sound deafening, even on TV. Your heart pounds, you hold your breath, you clasp your hands, and when the rocket soars, your imagination soars with it, and tears well and you gulp them back. Pride, fear, excitement, your mind and heart erupting with the possible. Every man, woman and child witnessing this wonder are too awestruck even to pray.

With every replay since ’69, the same visceral reaction occurs in me. That monumental sight never gets old to we who lived through those heady times. I believe it’s simply the difference between experiencing first-hand an historical moment versus merely reading about it. No event since that day has matched the Apollo launch and landing for me. Heck, even stalwart, Walter Cronkite, emoted and exhaled. We all held our breath and we all exhaled. The CO2 emissions worldwide must have experienced a major spike that day.

50 years later, and the Moon is finally again in our sights. Maybe it had to take tech innovators like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to kick-start our imagination and give the middle finger to the need for political will. If space exploration goes private, government’s fickle desires will no longer be the driving force and humans can again reach for the stars, man’s thirst to explore reigning supreme over some supreme leader. Hate, envy, them all you want, but maybe we needed a 21st century Columbus and Magellan in Bezos and Musk.

And yet, my feeling of being alone and adrift remains…

Courtesy Gamma World 2754

Will bio domes really be built on the Moon as stepping stones to explore our solar system and beyond? And will any of us who were alive in ‘69 live to see street lights glowing on the Moon?
I wonder how it will look.

I wonder how I will feel about how it will look.

And in our renewed quest to reach for without will we again forgo our need to repair within?

Planets aren’t disposable. You can’t ruin one then hop to another. And even if you could, would you? Should you? Is that what the creator intended? 
As a child, my mother always said, “You make a mess. You clean it up.” Does that not apply to humans and to Earth? My mother also said, “You can’t run away from your troubles.” Colonizing the Moon, we will surely take with us civil unrest, greed, exploitation and hate. Should we not fix our foibles here before we return there?

Yes. It’s a funny mix of feelings I have on this eve… grief, loss, hope, anticipation and apprehension… and ever I am alone and adrift.

My original National Geographic

Maybe this is a good time to mention that I still have that National Geographic magazine vinyl recording of the Moon Landing. As a kid, it was so exciting to carefully cut out the shiny black insert and play the 45 on my portable record player. Spotify and YouTube, eat your heart out!
Tonight, NASA’s launch pad is quiet. No steam is escaping any idle rocket engines. 
The countdown clock is still and Cronkite is looking down on us from the heavens.
Yet, unseen scientists of the 21st century variety are quietly crunching numbers and writing code and measuring energy output and trajectory angles while munching on Mars bars and drinking Tang, and sometime soon the time will be nye and we will again reach for the sky, but I wonder…

Will it, will we, ever be the same?
Alone and adrift like me, the Man in the Moon is mum.

Courtesy pixabay