The rocket surged upward with a blast of fire soon punctuated by the thunder of applause. The night itself was near-perfect, marred only by the knowledge I was watching a mirage, a smoke and mirrors light show projected onto the Washington Monument, and not the real thing. That’s where I was on Saturday, July 20, 2019 – fifty years to the day since human beings first did the once unthinkable by planting boots on lunar soil. Sadly, I wasn’t around when it really happened. I didn’t get to live in a nation galvanized to such a righteous cause by the soaring oratory of its president.
A lot can change in fifty years. Nowadays, I generally tune out politicians. More than a few of them strike me as narcissists or blowhards or bullies or cowards, and sometimes all of the foregoing at once. (I was always put off by how my college poli sci classes were populated with people who liked to hear themselves talk and were dead set on law school.) Then along comes a politician who forces me to sit up and listen. We’re going back to the moon in five years? Poppycock. More smoke and mirrors, right? As I said, I don’t trust most politicians any farther than I can throw them, but this time I can’t help but hope.
Let me tell you somewhere else I was on Saturday. I spent the late morning/early afternoon at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, and as I stood there at the intersection of the Wright brothers and the sophisticated death machines of World War II, I suddenly realized how quickly progress can happen after a single, singular breakthrough. The once unthinkable becomes reality and then so much more. The giant leap from Orville and Wilbur to Neil and Buzz isn’t, I suppose, as far as one might think.
So, this is where I go off the rails, but please stick with me here: I believe in my heart of hearts that mankind was meant to conquer the stars. We’ll get back to the moon. We’ll push on to Mars. And that’s just the beginning. I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don’t own a crystal ball. I’m just armed with confidence in the power of man’s ingenuity and faith in the human spirit. Yes, I’m a hopeless optimist, but trust me on this one. We’ll get there.
Would that it were in my day. And who knows? Maybe it will be. A lot can change in fifty years.