Monday, July 20, 2009

The Moon Landing: One giant leap into nothing

On July 20, 1969, I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step onto the surface of the moon. I was 17 and sitting with my mother and father in our living room in suburban Detroit. No one spoke as we leaned into the TV, peering intently at the grainy black and white video that was coming live from the moon.

I was literally breathless with excitement. I had grown up reading science fiction. I loved the space program. I was convinced that Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind" really was the dawning of a new age of exploration. Today as we mark the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, it seems so clear that what I once thought was a giant leap now looks like a quaint sidestep.

What Armstrong, Aldrin and the thousands of others at NASA did that day was an amazing achievement. In the long run, though, the space program has done far less to change the world than something else that happened in 1969.

Seventeen days before the moon landing, UCLA put out a news release introducing this new fangled thing called the Internet.

I thought the moon landing was going to be a pivotal point in history. I was so wrong. The real point of change turned out to be the event everyone ignored. I wonder what we're missing today.


ATWUSSD said...

I never really looked at it that way. One of the greatest achievements in human history is overlooked. I wonder what else is being overlooked as well.

Salamander 奥托 said...

I also imagined that even would lead us into some type of space program of exploration and the opposit happened. We went back a few times then stopped. Most of out manned space mission or to launch or repair satelites so we can watch TV and spy on people.
It's been a real disappointment.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Well, the Internet was developed as part of the space program; I don't think we'd have had the advances in computer tech that got us to this point without that push. Tom Wolfe has another take on why the space program has gone nowhere. He thinks the whole push behind it was the equivalent of single combat. We did it to beat the Russians, and once that happened, nobody but us geeks was interested in anything else. I think he's got a point.

But it's an interesting thought: What else is happening now that we aren't hearing about? Be nice if it was something worthwhile like the Internet. I tend to fear it's just something else what will blow up in our faces.

Diane Silver said...

I had to dig up the history of the Internet last year for a feature I did for an alumni magazine. As far as I can tell, the fear inspired by Sputnik helped launch the Internet, but it isn't accurate to say that the Internet was developed as part of the space program.

First and foremost, the Internet was developed to be a defense program. Later it was adopted by defense scientists and academics and the first networks linked universities and still later, as we all know, it was adopted by the rest of us.

Tom Wolfe's take is interesting. I'll have to follow the link. Thanks for posting it, Nancy.

Meanwhile, I hope that whatever we're missing right now is beneficial to us. I have to admit that there are days when I don't think the Internet has been such a positive advance. What amazes me the most, though, is how we landed on the moon, and it didn't mean a darn thing to the world as a whole.