On Saturday (July 20th), we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of mankind’s giant leap, our footfall on the dusty surface of the moon. Just about every blogger over the age of forty made mention of it last week or over the weekend. I didn’t, because as great an achievement as landing on the lunar surface was, the greater goal was achieved at 12:50pm EDT on July 24, 1969. The men who walked on the moon returned safely to the earth, fulfilling President Kennedy’s mandate to do so. I am very fortunate to have been born during the Apollo era, and even more fortunate to have grown up during an age when space shots were still awe-inspiring.
I watched the first Space Shuttle Columbia launch in my fourth grade classroom. The Right Stuff came out when I was in junior high. The Challenger disaster (I was a high school freshman) sadly gave my generation its first shared sense of loss, not to be matched until a bright Tuesday morning in September fifteen years later.
The common thread in all of that: we had heroes once. Identifiable, known, and despite their real human flaws, inspiring. How I wish we could get that back.
With the space program in the latter half of the 20th century, we had a shared purpose, a discernible goal as a society and, arguably, as a species. But we seem to have lost that, too. How I wish we could get it back.
This isn’t to say we can’t. I remain convinced that we can– and we must. A shared purpose is where heroes come from– if we can rediscover one, we get the other. We have to do the other things; not because they are easy, but because they are hard. It’s time to start dreaming again. It’s time to find some heroes again… Neil Armstrong and Gus Grissom and and Christa McAuliffe. We also need heroes like Janet Armstrong and Betty Grissom and Steven McAuliffe… they’re pretty inspiring themselves.
We need them again. And we need the sense of purpose they shared.
Just my two cents’ worth on the true anniversary of Apollo 11.