A good walk spoiled

So we lost a couple of daring men over the weekend.

The most famous one was Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission. I remember as a kid watching those walks; it was like watching literal steps into the future.

I watched every one of them. Most Americans did not. We Americans had very short attention spans even then. Not as short as in today’s age of checking your phone for a new alert (whiz! bang! pow!) every other moment, but enough that even moonwalks get boring after you see one or two.

So pretty quickly, we stopped exploring. It’s as if Columbus had sailed to the Americas, gone back home and said, “well, that’s done.” (Some will think that would have been a good thing, but that’s another issue.)

The second death was that of Don Peterson, who took one of the first spacewalks from the space shuttle. He never got to walk on another world, and I’d wager not nearly as many people knew his name. By the time of the shuttle, The Right Stuff had become just a job.

And I had a sad thought that has struck me before. A nation that sent people to the Moon and back with less computing power than I have in my phone now needs its astronauts to hitch rides to get into orbit. Just five men remain alive who walked on the Moon, and no one else is going anytime soon.

Yes, there is talk now of a new space race. Maybe the competition will make us join in.  Maybe back to the Moon, or on to Mars.

I’d suggest NASA find some new tricks if we do. Maybe send along an alien mask to photograph or plant some hieroglyphics. Astronauts devote their lives to exploration, but most of us get bored easily. Like the song says: Here we are now; entertain us.


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