The Lost Moon

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, culminating in the first human footsteps on the Moon.

Charles Krauthammer has a deeply thoughtful piece on the Moon we left behind:

But look up from your BlackBerry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints — untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history, the moon is not just a mystery and a muse, but a nightly rebuke. A vigorous young president once summoned us to this new frontier, calling the voyage “the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.” We came, we saw, we retreated.

That we ascended to the stars, but then turned our backs to them shows just how foolish our society can be.

Apollo was probably unsustainable, but had we allowed space to be another place where human creativity, ingenuity, and daring could have thrived rather than a sterile “commons” visited only by state actors, our present could have looked much more like the future depicted in 2001.

If an alien race were to come to Earth and see what we have done—or not done—in the past 40 years, I doubt they’d understand it. How a civilization can pull back from such a dazzling achievement would be beyond the understanding of any rational creature.