It was the night of July 20th, 1969. I was standing on the balcony of my father’s house, looking at the Moon, and knowing it was a different place that night. Why? Because there were two men on the Moon at that very moment.
Robert Heinlein summed up:
“I think this whole business today has been thought of in too small of terms,” he said. “This is the greatest event in all of the history of the human race up until this time. Today is New Year’s Day of Year One. If we don’t change the calendar, historians will do so.” By landing on another world, Heinlein asserts, humankind has gone through puberty, confirmation, and a bat mitzvah all at once. “This is the biggest day the human race has ever seen,” he adds, “the most important thing since the human race learned to talk.”
Of course, Richard Nixon decided that now that we had gotten to the Moon, it wasn’t important to continue. NASA has been refocused again and again, from Earth science to low-orbit bus service to Muslim outreach, and even more destructively, has been consumed by creeping bureaucracy.
But it doesn’t matter. Now we have SpaceX and Virgin Galactic and a half-dozen other commercial space companies. We have people seriously looking at mining the asteroids and Elon Musk seriously trying to colonize Mars. And if those don’t work, the Chinese and the Japanese and the Indians will go.