There is something about the moon landing that makes my heart soar. As a seven year old, I remember my favourite teacher Mr Lusher talking about this incredibly important, crazy mission, that men had actually left our planet just over 10 years ago. He talked about how lucky we were to be alive in this time of curiosity and discovery because who knows what would happen in our lifetime? I remember him being a total science geek (he also played the guitar, and did special voices for Roald Dahl books). He was passionate about what we could do and be with our lives: he did not believe in limits for kids. So as far as Room 4 at Waikouaiti Primary was concerned, we were all going to be astronauts, no question.
I have never lost that excitement for this time we are living in. The possibilities that technology, curiosity and sheer bloody determination creates are so thrilling to me. And amongst the events in Iran, the Economageddon, eye-wateringly overpaid vacuous footballers and reality tv stars; this sense of hopefulness is important. With the benefit of 40 years of hindsight, the Guardian has dedicated many pages to what the Apollo 11 mission means to us as a species. Messers Rutherford and Fong say it more beautifully than I ever could:
‘Apollo 11 was a fulfilment of the pure positivity of human nature, our desire to explore. It’s that unique human attribute that caused our deep ancestors to cross the oceans that resulted in our conquering this planet. For better or worse, it is our nature. There will come a time when we will be unified in recognising 19 July 1969 as the first small step towards humanity’s destiny: to live on other planets. It will not happen in our lifetimes, but it will in our kids’, and their children will know no different. Whatever the motivations, landing on the moon was the most awesome realisation of that destiny. That is why we, humankind, should commit not only to going back, but to seek out other strange new worlds.
Ultimately, this is not a subject that lends itself easily to objective debate. You can march through the arguments, for and against, factual, economical, scientific or emotional, and people tend not to budge one way or the other. Recent polls suggest that the majority of the public are still in favour of human space exploration. It is because planetary exploration is an idea so big and a concept so bold that it spans the boundaries between scientific disciplines and spills over to engage the wider public. And heaven help us we need that. It appeals to people as human beings at a visceral and emotional level, and in so doing helps to inspire and deliver the next generation of scientists. It is in that benefit, not just to science but to our society and culture, that the true legacy of Apollo lies. Unless you’re some miserable git who sat on the sofa in the summer of ’69 trying to look really unimpressed by some bloke walking on the moon for the first time in the history of the universe’.
More photos here.