Dreams of humanity: fifty years on

It’s fifty years today since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out on the surface of the Moon. I was a kid when it happened, but I remember it as yesterday – watching the wobbly image of Armstrong, on TV, as he made his way across the lunar surface.

Buzz Aldrin descends to the lunar surface, 20 July 1969, illuminated by light reflecting from the regolith. Photo:NASA.

Looking back, we can see through the politics of the Cold War. Those drove the frenetic race to get to the Moon with mid-twentieth century technology. But that was simply the enabler. In a human sense, the moon landings transcended it. They transcended, indeed, all the disputes, arguments and wars that have coloured human history. For one glorious moment, the world stood and watched as something wonderful unfolded – something humans had achieved. It was a fantastic moment in so many ways. For the first time in the 3.6 billion year history of planet Earth – a timing, incidentally, nailed by the discoveries made during those lunar ventures – a creature of Earth had left it and stepped on another world. Think about it. The first time in the history of the world.

To me, that symbolises what humanity can do. It was without question one of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century on so many levels. It shaped today’s world in a ways we seldom realise. Thanks to Project Apollo, we have everything today from memory foam mattresses to – fly-by-wire and even modern microcomputers, all of which got kicked along by the needs of the Apollo programme.

Apollo showed the world what can be done, if the money and the will is there. Looking back from fifty years on, I think Apollo showed humanity it was all right to dream. I miss it.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019