20 July 2009

Indelible marks

Apollo 11 astronautsI don’t remember the Apollo 11 mission.

I was rather young at the time, when memories tend not to solidify into more permanent things. But like the astronaut’s footprints on the moon, the mark the Apollo left on me was indelible. The mission that the world is celebrating and remembering spurred my interest in science and shaped my consciousness in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine.

I had the publicity picture of the Apollo 11 astronauts here on my wall. I wrote to NASA and got a big package of stuff from them that I poured over. I visited Cape Canaveral when I was 10 on family vacation. I was fascinated by the thought of space travel, and the possibility of routine flights to the Moon and a mission to Mars. At the time, it seemed it might happen in my late 20s...

Needless to say, I’m not in my late 20s. An opportunity was missed after Apollo. The International Space Station is wonderful, but it seems such a tentative step after the astonishing ones of Apollo. I don’t think there has been an achievement after the moon missions that has had the same impact on kids that NASA’s manned space program had on me.

I’m not alone. A new Nature survey found that half of the respondents said the Apollo missions inspired them to pursue science.

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