Saturday, January 1, 2011

Man vs. Moon. What's Next?

Just finished watching The Right Stuff.  I wanted to bring in the New Year with something inspirational that I hadn’t seen already. It was inspirational all right. I couldn’t help but compare it to today. Our national economy can’t support the kind of space race witnessed back in the ‘60’s.  I can’t help but wonder, though, if our national spirit would bolster if we did enter into the drive to push the envelope, to stretch human engineering and physical endurance even more, to do what no one has ever done before. 

It’s hard to justify pouring money into a national project like the space race, given the current blow to our middle class and the increasing slide of those on the edge into poverty. But should Washington D.C. find a way to increase monies to experimental programs that inspire the public to be proud to be Americans,inspire adults to push the envelope, inspire children to be all they can be? 

The closest modern thing I think of to the space race effort was the race to map the human genome, and that was a private enterprise. That held the public attention for about a year, really, even though the project was much longer. Perhaps we should just leave it to the private world to inspire our nation, but it seems to me that our national government has put so much money into defense that it must have tremendous research resources at its disposal – the kind of resources private entities could only wish to have. Isn’t there a way to apply those resources to catapult scientific advances in physics, biotechnology, nanotechnology and more into the next level of achievement? What else is out there that is just beyond the human grasp that would excite the public psyche as a national goal? We put man on the moon and stopped. Isn’t there something next?

The movie was a bit too long at just over 3 hours and ended with a sudden wrap-up that left pilot Yeager as a loose end, as if the director realized he couldn’t add a fourth hour. Nevertheless, the acting was above par and so were the cinematography, special effects, stunts and everything else. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, it’s worth wading through some of the long sequences. It made me consider my personal challenges. Have I taken enough risk? How much further can I stretch? Who out there is taking real personal risks, really stretching, and really catching the public’s eye for doing it? All I can think of is sports. Thank goodness for the Olympics. But we put a man on the moon. Surely there’s something next?

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