One small step for man . . .


Photos courtesy of NASA

We can argue about it today, but yes Neil Armstrong’s quote wasn’t as all-inclusive as we’d use today.  For his time though, it worked.  It conveyed the awesome scope of the occasion.

Today, July 20, 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  This feat marks the highlight of mankind’s scientific achievement to date.  The sheer effort involved in pulling the moon landing off consumed lives and treasure while captivating the minds of the world.

The success of this endeavor made instant heroes of the men who made the trip to the moon.  Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins will forever be tied to this event.  Over time, they have capitalized on their notoriety and made names for themselves or they have let the fame that they gained for just performing their job affect their lives and relationships.  Who can say how the rest of us would have performed.  I don’t know how my life would have been affected by peering into the black void of space, setting foot on an alien body and then looking back onto the blue marble of Earth.


What I do know is that it didn’t take too long before moon landings were viewed as commonplace; where we thought more about the products that came about as a result of Apollo – like Teflon – than the actual feat of the lunar landing itself.  Once we had “been there, done that” we lost interest and thus killed the dream that we strived so hard to achieve.  You have to wonder what Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins think privately about the lack of effort, the lack of will.  So, what happened, what diverted us from the course that we had charted for ourselves once JFK stated that we were going to the moon?  There were many issues but I think the most important are:

  • Lack of leadership – what passes for leadership in this country is fairly poor.  We’re better emulating the Romans (make sure they have their read and circuses) than making people see that there are tough choices to be made in life.  Leadership in this country failed the country, became embroiled in wars that had no lasting difference and pandered to the basest desires of the populace.
  • Willingness to be taken for the ride – the American populace failed in their obligation to be informed and educated.  We have sunk to new lows in this country when it comes to education.   Other countries now are hurriedly taking up where we left off – Indians, Chinese and others are looking not only to return to the moon but are also talking about colonizing it.  They have the critical systems in place to do it too.  They value education, they encourage students to learn and grow and they capitalize on the investment.  America should learn this lesson and stop settling for public school systems that simply pass students through.  Education is not a cost, it IS an investment.
  • No sense of purpose – I’m probably going to get reamed for this but the Baby Boomers have left us a legacy of individualism.  An individualism that is so strong it borders on national narcissism.  These were the people who rebelled in the 60s, fueled the 70s with sex and drugs, made excessive greed popular in the 80s, and fostered the over-the-top 90s.  They gave us the “I’ve got mine, you can get yours” attitude, with no thought about the better good, sacrifice or the future.  The Baby Boomers have had their run, now it’s time to turn our attention to giving America a vision, correcting the course of the ship – it’s time to get back to the business of America.


So what can be done?  Well, nothing simple, that’s for sure.  It’s going to take a lot of work, none of it easy.  It’s going to involve hard choices and difficult decisions.  First off, we have to recognize that now matter who we are – the color of our skin, the language that we speak, our economic class, our orientation – we are first and foremost Americans.  We can no longer afford to be divisive.  The politicians and the pundits have made this the easy route because that takes the heat off of them.  Instead we need to see the future of our children and work now to make it better.

We need to look out for ourselves and our families without a doubt, but it should be tempered with the realization of our need to invest in coming generations.  We are providing the foundation for them to learn, grow, and succeed.  We cannot take it for granted that they will have good lives just because that’s the way it’s always been.  We have real competition out there, people and countries are aiming for our standard of living and they are gaining ground fast!

Lastly, we need to be united and aligned.  We need to hold our politicians to a higher standard.  We need to expect more out of ourselves.  We need to understand that we can make a difference and work toward changing our country and society at every chance we have.