A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted July 20th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” – from an address delivered by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in September of 1962
Kennedy spoke those bold words less than one year after his country sent the first American into space for a mere 15 minutes, and 59 years after the Wright Brothers were the first to successfully make a rickety contraption that passed for an airplane fly without crashing.
And 50 years ago this Saturday, July 20th – a mere six years and 10 months after Kennedy spoke those words about humans walking on the surface of moon before the end of the decade – it actually happened, as more than 500 million people around the world, watched it in awe on our televisions some 230,000 miles (360,000 kilometres) away.
In the world we live in now, where it seems to take forever to upgrade an interchange on the QEW or 406 Highway, or fix a leaky tunnel under the Welland Canal, it is amazing to realize what an accomplish it was to go from the first humans in tiny capsules to barely kiss he heavens in the early 1960s to collecting moon rocks and bringing them back home safely in 1969.
During a recent interview on CBC Radio, Dr. David Suzuki, a scientist and host of CBC’s television program ‘The Nature of Things’, referred to the feat of going to the moon and back within a decade to one of the great challenges humankind faces today – a climate emergency scientists around the world now say we now have less than two decades to make the changes necessary to avoid a possible point of no return.
Kennedy said Suzuki, set a deadline for going to the moon and back before a detailed plan and technology was in place to accomplish it. Yet a combination of determination, imagination and skill made it happen, and the technological advancements necessary to make it happen, including the advancement in computer systems, have continued to pay off to this day.
So if we could find the will and skill in such a short period of time to go to the moon – something we arguably did not have to do – why can’t we do it to tackle what so many experts say is one of the most existential threats facing humankind today?
Where is the kind of bold leadership that Kennedy demonstrated then to address this emergency – leadership that is free of doubt and hesitation, half-measures and compromise?
The Apollo space missions that ultimately took humans to the moon and back also produced some of the most spectacular photographs of our planet that exist to this day.
They are photographs that helped inspire the first Earth Day in 1970s, and they serve, or at least should serve as a reminder to us all, that this earth of ours is still the only place in the vast wilderness of space that we have to live.
It is a home for life as we know it and as 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg has stressed to gatherings of world leaders she has had the opportunity to address in recent months, we must act with the urgency we would if we woke up and discovered that our own house was on fire.
According to the best scientific assessments, we have now reached a point in the climate crisis that urgent action is our only option.
As some of the signs people held up during the last Earth Day read; ‘There is no planet B’.
To watch a brief video on the moon mission 50 years ago, click on the screen below –
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“A politician thinks of the next election. a leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders