With the celebrations of the Apollo Moon landings in recent days many people have been discussing the future of manned space travel. I am far to young to have witnessed the Moon landings myself, but everybody I speak to about it talks of the excitement of seeing those grainy pictures of men walking on the moon.
A whole generation was inspired by those landings, science became cool, sexy and exciting, and scientists where the pioneer of the new frontier.
As a case in point here is the introduction from 1970’s show ‘Space:1999’
The show portrayed a future where everything exploded, and everybody was running around and turning to the camera with troubled faces. This was the future I thought I would grow into. However our Space 2009 is rather pathetic in comparison. The largest thing we have in space is about the size of a house and the furthest we have travelled it three days away.
When Columbus sailed to America for the first time it took him five weeks, and he didn’t even know if their would be anything there.
I don’t say these things against the many scientists and engineers that do exceptional work in the space industry, for I have friends and relatives in the field. It is the lack of vision and drive from the polititians and public which results in the space programme we have today. NASA’s budget is around $17 Billion each year and the Apollo missions cost $136 Billion in today’s over the 13 years of the project. This sounds extravagant but it is still only faction of the $3000 Billion of the USA Federal Budget. In other words for every dollar of tax paid in the US half a cent goes to NASA. Compare that to 21 cents spent on Defence or that the Iraq war has cost to date $600 Billion.
Science can inspire, excite and uplift people, and major ambitions like putting men on the moon are the best way of showing the true nature of science to the public.
So when people ask me if we should go back to the moon, I always say “We never should have left”
Malcolm Morgan, Technical Editor