Monday, July 20, 2009

On the moon

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Forty years ago I lay on my stomach on the gold shag carpet of our living room in Denver and watched as an Eagle landed on the moon for the first time in human history. I was thrilled and the prospects for the future were grand and inspiring. Lunar colonies. Jetpacks. Flying cars. Mars was only a few years away for sure. Mars!

But we don't live in the future that my generation thought would happen. We don't live in an age of sliding Star Trek doors and bullet-shaped hover-cars. We don't commute Jetson-esque to Spacely Sprockets and push buttons for a living. We don't have domestic robots. We don't live in the sky.

I have to tell you that I'm disappointed. I'm let down that the dross of Americans decided that the moon wasn't interesting after only six trips there. It disheartens me that what fires the imaginations of people these days is the latest video game release or this week's celebrity scandal.

We used to have desires to make the world better for our children. Everything would be a stepping stone to the stars or an undersea wonderland that would put our fantasies of Atlantis to shame. It depresses me to think that all to which we can look forward is the next smart phone or smart car or smart bridge. Where is the grandeur? Where is the hope?

Don't misunderstand me. There are plenty of marvels in our modern world. I have a computer that is 12 inches long and two inches thick with more computing power than the first computers ever built and smaller by exponential magnitudes. I have a phone that I can carry anywhere I go and talk to anyone I wish and it's the size of a woman's compact -- or smaller. I have a television that is five inches thick that produces an image so crisp that I can see clearly the ping pong balls of which the original Daleks were constructed.

But I would give up my modern gadgetry to be able to catch a commuter flight to an orbiting Hilton for a long weekend. I would trade it all for a flying car. Or a gurney at the hospital that would spit out my current state of health and all of my test results without my so much as having to remove a shoe. I'd give it all up to watch an American walk on the moon again. Or drive a lunar dune buggy over sandy interplanetary shores. I'd weep tears of joy to see an American on Mars in my lifetime.

I want to live in the future that Apollo 11 foreshadowed. Is that too much too much to ask?

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