Space Exploration (Way Off Topic)

It is my intention to keep this blog parimarily technical, but I feel the need to make an off topic post today.

For those that do not know, today is the 35th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong's famous first step out onto the moon, one of a few truly monumental events in the history of our world.  If you turn on the TV or listen to the radio today, you're certain to hear at least some snippet about the anniversary, as well you should.

I've known about the upcoming anniversary for days, but I was reminded in the car this morning while driving my step-daughter to the airport.  I was again reminded while watching the news at the airport (during the inevitable delay before boarding).  I was amazed, and frankly somewhat dismayed, when the CNN Anchor asked people to email in to discuss whether or not we should continue to push to the moon and, possibly, beyond.

And, I must admit, I was quite shocked to see the numbers of people that responded crying an emphatic “no”, citing cost, risk, technology, and 'lack of need' as the barriers to our continued push into this vast frontier.

There are certainly numerous 'reasons' to continue our efforts to push into space:

  1. The human race continues to grow, with no end in sight.  With our growth, we expand, and push into those areas that were once our farm lands and our ranches, our wild territory that belongs to the other inhabitants of our planet.  Our need for room to live will eventually overwhelm our tiny planet, stifle, and kill it, unless we find other places which can support us and those things we need.
  2. As we grow, we consume natural resources at ever greater rates.  Even our renewable resources need space in which to renew, and we consume that space.  We must eventually find new wealth springs of these resources, or at the very least room in which these resources may renew.
  3. The discoveries and technologies that have come both directly and indirectly from our push into the unknown reaches of space are many, and significant.  Not an aspect of our lives is untouched by these technologies, materials and gadgets, and very few of us can honestly claim we don't consider these advancements fundamental to our way of life... and we have only scratched the surface.

And, yet, the most compelling argument to continue our drive into unknown space is one beyond reason and logic; it is at the very core of what makes us human; it is, quite simply, “because it's there.”

Why do we celebrate Neil Armstrong's titanic first steps onto a new world?  Why is he considered a true hero?  Why was it a “giant leap for mankind”?  The cost of those steps was enourmous, the risks extreme, the technology insufficient, and the need small.  Why, then, are men such as he - the Columbus's, the Lewis and Clark's, and the Magellan's of the world, so celebrated, so revered, so well remembered, that their stories are told even centuries after their accomplishments.

Why do small boys and girls dream of one day being astronauts, being the first to step upon the surface of a strange new world?

It is because facing the risks, paying the costs, and looking fear in the eye to discover the unknown are at the very heart of what makes us human... they are what define the human spirit... they are what set us apart from the other animals that share our home.  It is these singular men and women that give us hope and fuel our dreams.  It is these people that prove we haven't given up, that life is something which, even in the darkest hour, is still worth fighting for.

I, for one, support our exploration of space whole heartedly, and support those men and women that give me, and future generations, a reason to dream..