Sunday, July 20, 2014

45 years ago today

July 20, 1969 is a day that will be remembered that mankind left the cradle of Mother Earth, stepping out into the sea of stars. Today marks the 45 anniversary of when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the lunar surface. An estimated 600 million people watched the crew of Apollo 11 take those first historic steps. There are pictures and videos in that link up there from the Huffington Post. They're worth a look.
So where were you on that day?
Some of us were to young to remember. A lot of my friends hadn't been born yet. I confess to being all of two at the time. There are brief flashes of being dragged in front of a TV set to see something, but my childhood memories may be confusing that with the Apollo-Soyez space linkup.
I took a moment to look at the photos and video links and paused to wipe a tear from my eye. I'm doing it again now. Few things affect me this way, and this is one of them.
Now instead of bitching about 'why don't we go back there?', or pleading with the public about the collateral science and economic advancement that goes along with every time we go into space, I'd like to take a look at what we've done in the nearly 50 years since Apollo 11.

  • We (the collective human race.) have built Space stations.
  • We have launched robotic spacecraft to explore our solar system.
  • Based on a data archive, each miniature sphere in this image represents an existing object orbiting in space. There are around 22,000 objects in orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track
    Everything from discarded rockets to the functioning ISS.
  • We have launched countless satellites 
  • Orbital telescopes further our understanding of the Universe.
And finally, the scientific advancements and education made possible by these discoveries.
Here's one more: a timeline of space exploration advancements.
Soon, even that will have to be rewritten. There is a spacecraft approaching Pluto.
Here's what I find amazing: the New Horizons spacecraft is already taking pictures of Pluto. Right now it looks like a fuzzy dot, which is what it looks like to us, but it is needed to adjust the trajectory of the robot explorer. NASA got it to the general vicinity, now we need to fine tune the direction. That's how far away it is. As of this writing New Horizons is 28.78 astronomical units (AU) away from earth. That's roughly 4.305x 10 to the 9th kilometers away. Yeah, yeah, I know: numbers that don't mean anything to anyone. The distance from the Earth to the Sun is 1 AU. Horizons is nearly 29 times that distance right now. Still doesn't make sense? A radio message takes about 4 hours to get there. 8 hours until the craft sends one back. Talk about lag!
With all that we've done, some people still have problems making their bed every morning. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

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