Thursday, July 16, 2009

Per aspera ad astra

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the Moon. July 1969 A.D.
We came in peace for all mankind.

It’s the inscription on a metal plaque on the legs of the lunar landing module which has sat for the last 40 years on a feature named the ‘Sea of Tranquility’ on earth's Moon.

For a geek there is no bigger day in the calendar than 16 July the anniversary of the moon landing. The_weapon and I have been trying to make a Lego tribute but the Lunar Lander (Lem) is proving a challenge. A much simpler tribute is the work of a fan using the lego from the time of the landings..

Nothing since has fired the imagination of the world. No other event is pointed to as a pinnacle of our technological achievement to compare all others -‘if we can land men on the moon, why can’t we….(insert desired)?” was a frequent lament for the decades after. A generation of engineers and scientists were created because of the zeitgeist of the goal to land men on the moon. There was a feeling our future would be ever upward, a bright shinny utopia.

But it’s been forty years. Now we seem to view the future more with fear and trepidation, less optimism and enthusiasm than ever before.

Why ?

In that forty years were’ve discovered more, learned of wonders both sublime and gross, we have more people and hence more of the most evolved thinking machines ever devised living longer, with access to better tools and more information that we have had in the past centuries. To those who lived a thousand years ago we in countries like Australia, Britain and the United States would be judged as Gods. Even the rest of the world is racing to catch up to our opportunities.

Yes there are problems but hope beats despair any day for trying to fix something.

So we need a new Apollo program to once again inspire hope, but its hard to imagine one that will fire the imagination like the first. The Large Hadron Collider excites me and a lot of other geeks but hasn’t caught the public’s imagination, other than as a tool for hacks like Dan Brown to portray as the evils of science personified. The human genome project gets me hot and sweaty but had to generate an iconic image like the photo ‘earthrise’.

A permanent colony on the moon? Its an obvious step but more a commercial operation like setting up research station in Antarctica sur a technical challange but no ones going to make a movie about it. A walk on Mars?

No for me I want a crewed journey to another star system - that’s what I want to see.

But then to get the funding they would probably want to run it as a live streaming reality program something like Ron Battlestar Galactica Moore’s new series ‘Virtuality’ which is a little depressing. Not the show, though I am sure there will be depression in, after all if you are stuck on a ship with the same people for 10 years that's bound to make you a bit blue at times. I meant depressing you need reality TV to drive space exploration.

Still Per aspera ad astra

I leave you with a piece of music which for many people, myself included, can’t hear without thinking of humanity’s exploration of space.

Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. Op. 30 from 2001: a Space Odyssey

So what should be the next great adventure ?


  1. I say we put our commercial stamp on space. Meaning- I think we should throw a Mcdonald's and a Starbucks up there manned completely by robots for sporatic space travelers who are jonesing for a double cheeseburger and an espresso/mocha.

  2. I lament the slowed space programs too, but i also feel that Australia needs to be a bigger part of this stuff. I am liking this though - - it's the practice for the mars missions. The only unfortunate thing is they are talking about the real thing being 30 years away. I am also sort of hoping the international space station is the continuation of humanity's footsteps into space, and all countries get to be a part of it.

  3. "We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because that goal will seek to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills" (slightly modified)


  4. Heidi Germanaus
    I am expecting the white surface of NASA's new Constellation program rockets Ares & Orion to be plasted with sponsorship, why not Mcdonald's and a Starbucks to alert fellow space travels to your proposed rocket through service.

    Australia being involved would rock. The ISS while worthy its not going to get a movie made about it.

    Its a great speech, a brilliant idea.

  5. The LHC is some interesting shit, that's for sure.

    Yeah, space gets the thinky juices flowing. I like the Hubble stuff.

  6. Just released moon landing footage. Just come out in the last coupla hours.

  7. Barnes - I think that we could plaster the outside of the next space-ship with logos for computer games so that any spacefaring races we come across will think we are mean bastards? I am thinking World of Warcraft and Halo sponsorships...

    Anyway if you want to feel like you are part of the space race go to this site:

  8. Moko
    the restored fortage of the landing is Brill after looking at the old stuff so many times. I was one of the ones hooked up on the web to watch as the LHC came on line last time, and while there were a lot jumping on it wasn't like ratings figures for 'neighbours'.

    Guru Bob
    Thanks for the link, we've been following the stuff on Nasa site for budding junior spacemen.

  9. Sadly 'micro' exploration stuff - i.e. particle physics or molecular genetics - is never going to capture the public imagination the same way that 'macro' explorations like missions into space. Just seems to be too great a leap of understanding for these sorts of achievements to seem as dramatic or as relevant to people. The moon, for instance, has a mythology which goes back to ancient man, so the significance of putting humans on it is obvious. Unlocking the secrets of subatomic interactions or epigenetic regulation of stuff and things just ain't gonna get the same public fascination.

    Not when half the Seppos believe in Genesis. Literally.

  10. I just wish they'd come up anti-gravity already. It's SOOO yesterday.

  11. I'd like to see an orchestra play that on the moon!

  12. I'm still tickled that a student today said I didn't look old enough to remember the moon landing . . .

    Nevertheless, I think the nano-stuff will be a big (er, small?) frontier for future exploration. The chief reason I lack enthusiasm about exploration off-planet is that we've mucked this place up so dreadfully, I hate to see what we'd do to the rest of the universe.

  13. Dr Yobbo
    I know I realy hope some of the surveys of scientic knowledge that are conducted, like the one you refer to about beliveing in Genesis, are miss interpreted or the future is DOOMED.

    Antigravity now that would be SWEEETTT and there would sure be a noble prize in it.

    One day, and I want to be in the audience calling out 'now do the theme from 2001.

    But once we move our heavy industry off plant we can turn the earth into a garden.