From the moon to the Earth

A screen shot from the Globe and Mail's excellent interactive graphic
A screen shot from the Globe and Mail's interactive graphic

It’s nearly impossible to escape mention today of the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic first step onto the lunar surface. Television, radio, newspapers and online portals are overflowing with anniversary stories and tributes to the men and women with the “right stuff” who made it possible — on Earth and in the skies. (By the way, one of the most magnificent media postings today on the anniversary is on the Globe and Mail website, assembled by the talented Tonia Cowan (she of the recent Emmy Award nomination; see adjacent partial screen shot).

As a boy and well into my teens, I was an unapologetic space geek. My own thoughts on America’s push to land a human being on the moon appeared in a column in the London Free Press last Saturday. The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions were noble efforts and demonstrated what could be done when a critical mass of human knowledge and invention is applied to a specific problem.

Accompanying today’s anniversary fanfare in many media is a lot of talk about what’s next for space exploration. More moon missions? A multi-year voyage to the surface of Mars?

Despite my continuing fascination with human endeavour in space, I’m not a big fan of either of the aforementioned projects. Given the reality of climate change and the fact that Earth is already in a state of warmth that scientists, only a few years ago, predicted would take a decade, we’ve got a substantial project much closer to home.

The lunar landing reminds me that it is possible — when knowledge, ingenuity, invention and determination are combined into a potent mix — to solve problems that might otherwise be considered unsolvable. The moon and Mars aren’t going anywhere. They can wait. Ensuring our earthly home is in good condition is the next “giant leap for mankind.”

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