The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Monday, 20 July 2009

To the moon, Alice!

Forty years ago today human beings first set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the lucky two who got to prance around in 1/6 gravity while Michael Collins had to play taxi driver to give them a ride home.

This is Buzz's footprint.

I was two years old when this happened and I still have a vague recollection of being herded into our neighbour's house (we didn't have a TV) to watch this curiously blue black and white image. I didn't know it at the time but my parents were showing me history.

For the longest time my parents held onto the Toronto Star that featured the photo above. Sadly, I have no idea where that paper might be now. It was a time of high adventure and endless possibilities. Let's face it - they made it to the friggin' moon with less computing power than you find in your average TV remote control.

Over the next three years there were five more moon landings with a total of twelve men setting foot on our closest celestial neighbour.

And then, in 1972, we stopped.

I guess we didn't stop completely. We shifted focus. A reusable spacecraft became a priority and sure it was cool, but it wasn't pushing the limits. It wasn't a trip to Mars.

We also decided that space travel should suddenly become safe, somehow. You need to harness a set of hellish rockets - little more than directed chemical bombs, really, to escape the pull of gravity and this is somehow expected to be safe?

Space travel is not supposed to be safe. It is supposed to be risky. All pioneering efforts have always been risky. Without risk, there is no pay-off. Crossing the Atlantic, by ship or by airplane is now routine - but not always. The same holds true for space travel.

I heard a commentator speaking about a future Mars mission and she said that one of the most difficult things will be the cramped quarters for the journey. I thought to myself - why? Why cramped? We have an international space station up there already - why not haul up a set of rockets and adapt that thing for the journey? All that hardware is already up there and it's not like you need to worry about aerodynamics in the vacuum of space.

Anyway - I am encouraged. Last night Buzz Aldrin - 2nd man on the moon - spoke out about a future mission to mars. He plans to encourage President Obama to once more push the limits and focus on the establishment of a colony on Mars.
Go get 'em, Buzz!

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