And, really, after forty years, you have to look back - at least, some of us look back - and wonder; what the fuck?
Riley over at Bats Left/Throws Right pretty much nails it. The space program was born, grew, and died like a mayfly, in 1969, It didn't die because somehow we jacked the money to bomb Vietnam or give food stamps to Negroes.
"It died because it's damned near at the edge of what we might accomplish provided we threw everything we've got into it (and if we haven't learned from doing that several times over that the main thing it accomplishes is bankruptcy, then we've been paying even less attention than we appear to be), and means fucking nothing whatsoever to anyone above the mental age of eleven..."
The reality is that Einstein's Wall makes interstellar travel impractical unless you're willing to construct monstrous argosies that will carry, in effect, little Earths, voyaging for countless generations through the empty voids between the stars. Even assuming the idea was practical - and the ill-fated "Biosphere" experiments suggest that we are, at best, generations away from a workable model, no nation could afford it. Mars and Venus, the closest planetary objects to us, cannot support life, and the remaining planets are even worse.
Nope. We're stuck on this planet save for in the imagination of sci-fi fans, books and movies. The "moon shots" were a one-off, a vastly expensive, mildly entertaining bit of government pork thrown at the military, useful for collecting some rather valuable geologic data but otherwise sterile. The fact that there are mental ten-year-olds presently in elective office that seem to think that sending a human being to Mars is a good idea says more about our electoral process than it does about the value of the idea.
So I guess I understand why the "celebration" of the anniversary of Apollo 11's landing was so muted.
Who celebrates the puberty of a eunuch?
Update 7/21 pm: I want to hammer this home - I'm not saying this stuff just to be curmudgeonly. The IDEAL of space exploration, of humanity finding a way to the stars, is a terrific one. Not only for the pure knowledge and adventure of it - being confined to a single planet is begging for extinction. But here's my deal; why are we celebrating our piddly little "dream" of flag-waving Yankee Doodle moon shots? Why not dream REALLY big? An "Ark in Space", the real chance to give the human race a shot at a future beyond the lifetime of our star?
National space progams like the Apollo missions, IMO, are the problem, not the solution. They divide the human race, forcing nation to compete against nation, militarizing the space programs and condemning us to farting around near the Earth's orbit for the next ten generations.
The real dream is up there. But the groundwork for the dream is here, on Earth, and it involves moving beyond the Apollo-type missions to real, global cooperation and exploration and, yes, commercialization, of space.The day we see the launch of the "Nostromo" from Kaiser's orbiting shipyard near Ceres, with a commercial crew and funding from Reynolds Metals, will be the true culmination of the dream of space exploration. At that point we will truly be reaching out into space, rather than simply using it as a void through which to swing a fist.