Monday, July 20, 2009

One Small Step

It was forty years ago today that they landed on the moon for the first time. I can barely recall the actual event myself; I was only 7, and a girl, and way more interested in Archie comics. I remember being up at a cottage on Lake Huron that we rented for the month of July when I was a kid. We didn't have a television there, but the neighbors did, and invited us over to see it. Mostly my memories of the whole thing include it being a stinking hot, humid night, and me being pissed off that none of the other kids wanted to do anything but watch tv.(They were all boys, and older than me. At the very least, I understood that this was most decidedly a testosterone-friendly thing, and no one was going to give me two second's attention.)

But the older I get, the more amazing I find the whole thing. I mean, think about it; people got off this planet, landed somewhere else, walked around on it, and got back here alive. I'm exhausted after unpacking from the cottage.

It's really quite a remarkable thing, especially when you consider that the technology they had in cell phone has a more powerful computer than almost anything they had back then. When you look at the footage, it looks positively medieval. (One of the things I that fascinates me about technology is that, no matter what you are dealing with at the time, you think it's the best that it's ever going to get. Like, I don't find myself saying "wow, I really hope they sort out this cell phones that don't control the weather at the same time thing" or "digital cameras are really not enough, I want a camera takes pictures when I forget to bring it with me, too". The technology always seems to be totally adequate for what you want at the time. Except for children's car seats....they are horrible to operate, and are desperately in need of about 20 years more work.) I think if they were sending men up to the moon now with what they had then, they'd just throw up their hands and say, "have you been smoking crack? There's no way."

Also, the world has changed in terms of what we deem as "acceptable risks". If they tried to go to the moon today, nobody in their right mind would think it's safe enough. As it was, the whole moon walk was like the Titanic in reverse....just as that ship going down required a whole string of unlikely little events to happen just so for disaster to fall, so Apollo 11 had a whole lot of little things go just right, so that it was a success. Phenomenal.

My interest in the moon landing is considerbly more today than it was forty years ago, mostly, I think, because I can appreciate what an enormous undertaking the whole thing was, and what an exceptional acheivment it was. Again, sort of like unpacking from the cottage.

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