Fifty years ago today I thrilled at the Moon landing, which I watched on a a grainy black-and-white TV with my parents and brother. From that day forth, the kid who was me believed she could, one day, work on the Moon if she wanted to. After all, our later-reviled President, Richard Nixon, told us that “The sky is no longer the limit.” Oh how I could hardly wait to land my own job on the Moon!
Technology has come a long way in fifty years, which is how I was able to sit on the national Mall yesterday evening with thousands of others watching a projection of the Apollo 11 rocket onto the Washington Monument. This was part of a program in which NASA and the Smithsonian commemorated the momentous achievement of all the women and men who poured their passion into making Apollo 11 a reality. And there I sat on the grass remembering my own dream job on the Moon.
Actually, my trip down memory lane began on a rainy night at the ballpark some days earlier. There, I chanced upon a replica of Neil Armstrong’s space suit, which got me to musing about what happened to that kid who thought she could work on the Moon when she grew up. I’ll tell you, dear readers. That kid, who is as much me as she ever was, went on to get a job on the Moon! That is to say, I became a science fiction writer and found out that when I unleash my imagination, the sky is indeed no longer the limit.
On this 4th of July, 2015, New Horizons hurtles toward Pluto. It’s a mere 7,240,920 miles away and closing fast. If all goes as planned, we should see tantalizing photos in under two weeks. This serves as a reminder of just how far we have come since people first set foot on the Moon nearly 46 years ago. Here’s one of the iconic photos of Astronaut John Young, commander of Apollo 16.
Today, I am struck, not only by how far we’ve been able to send space craft, but also by the globalization of the efforts to explore other planets, moons, asteroids, and everything else that’s out there. While some may decry the perceived loss of American supremacy in space exploration, I do not share those views. Indeed, I am reminded that centuries ago, the efforts of European explorers to reach distant lands did not depend upon the interest of a single nation or the will of a single monarch. It is precisely the international nature of the attempts to further human understanding of the origins and evolution of the Solar System that reassures me of the progress we are making.
For those like me, who remember the grainy black and white images on our 1969 televisions, it seems like the ability to follow #PlutoFlyby from the comfort of our laptops and phones is yet another demonstration that we’re living in the future.