In May 1961 – with the Soviet Union leading space technology – President John F. Kennedy spoke the nearly unimaginable, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” The concepts previously relegated to the pages of science fiction was now proposed as reality. Children imagined what it would be like to be an astronaut, and scientists pondered the great discoveries that awaited them. America, and the world, had a dream.
Though fraught with danger and difficulty, NASA made it on December 21, 1968. Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to leave earth’s orbit, reach the moon, orbit it and return safely to earth. Less than a year later, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts not only orbited the moon, but also landed on it. Over a four-year period, humans made it to the moon nine times including six surface landings. Twelve men have actually taken a stroll in the ultimate moonlight.
Amazingly, despite far superior technology and capabilities today, humans have not returned to the moon since 1972. It turns out that a big dry rock in space is a lot more impressive in our imaginations than it is up close. While moon rocks and soil samples are fun to look at in the museum, their value is much greater because of the achievement than for the materials they comprise.
With results like these, it may be easy to write-off the moon expeditions as huge wastes of tax-payer money. Sure, it was an exciting project and the win was exhilarating, but in the end we didn’t gain a whole lot – or did we?
If we look at the moon today and fail to see housing and research facilities – or if we admit that we didn’t have a compelling reason to return – it would be easy to believe that we failed to show a positive return on our investment. That view, however, would be fantastically myopic. Consider just a few of the innovations that reaching for the moon gave us here on earth:
● Joystick – First used on the Apollo Lunar Rover, is a joy to all of us who ever played video games or flew a drone.
● Better Footwear – The unique problems for moon-walkers stimulated the creation of technologies that make modern footwear; more stable, more controllable, better ventilated, and better at shock absorption.
● Heart Monitors with Zap: Monitor and apply corrective voltage if necessary.
● Freeze-dried Food – Longer, fresher storage while reducing loss of nutritional value.
● Fire Retardant Clothing – Firefighters and their loved ones thank you.
● Memory Foam – For those who need a good night’s sleep or a safer ride on the Harley.
● CAT Scans – Designed to find flaws in space components, it now can find flaws in us.
● Retractable Roofs – Sports fans can get a little sunshine when the weather is right.
● Better Lenses – If you are glad your new glasses are scratch resistant, thank NASA.
● Better Security Systems – Better safe than sorry.
● Smoke Detectors – Have you checked your batteries lately?
● Insulation – Houses need protection from solar radiation too.
● Cordless Power Tools – Arrh, Arrh, Arrh Arrh!!!
● Water Filter – Survivalist should thank their lucky moon.
● Satellite TV – If you can Dish it out…
● Microchips – Without them you wouldn’t be reading my blog 😉
● Ear Thermometer – Can you hear me now?
● Many Many More…
So, while the direct tangible results of the moon missions may seem a bit underwhelming, the results of the process are incredible. The cool thing is, it doesn’t require a trip to the moon to see this principle in action. If you will take a little inventory in your own life, you will find that dreams you worked hard for, and thought were failures, have actually netted great technologies and wisdom that have the potential to benefit you and others for years to come.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong