Commemorating fifty-year anniversary of the first moon walk in July 2019

Last week, I stayed tuned in to a NASA broadcast that featured a Q&A forum presided by a high-ranking NASA Executive. Not sure if it was a taped broadcast, but it definitely sounded recent. The subject of the discussion revolved around planned missions to the moon and Mars. Space exploration. That subject fascinates me. So, I stated tuned in.

One question stood out. Why does the US need to engage in exploring the moon? The NASA rep elaborated on details of the mission’s goals, among which were:
– Why not – a lot of countries are pursuing their travel to and exploration of the moon. The US wants to be on the forefront of all space exploration.
– Apollo missions have shown the presence of water ice caps on the moon, as well as elements that are thought to be results of meteor fallouts and solar emissions from billions of years. These elements are not present on the earth. All these would be resources for research that would benefit the earth and its inhabitants.
– Studies of the moon may lead to knowledge of whether it is habitable or not.
– The moon can be the jump board for travel to and exploration of Mars, and later, other bodies in the solar system.

The NASA speaker projected that 20 years hence, the moon could be found to be habitable.  My conjecture is, he won’t be saying that if current research or findings from space missions do not lead to such speculation. Understandably, only some information from space exploration travels is filtered to the public. But it is remarkable that those supposedly “in the know” advance predictions that somehow suggest the direction and progress of lunar research. Of note, he said, the Greek god Apollo (after which the space mission was named) has a twin sister, Artemis. We are the Artemis generation (referring to the present world’s population spanning ages), and it is this Artemis generation that will experience habitation of the moon. Habitation on the moon! Sounds like a major event prophesied by the Marvel narratives. But with the speed science and technology are progressing, this indeed could turn a reality. Fascinating!

I was in graduate school when I watched the first moon walk televised around the world. I was then with a group of students just come back from a day of field work spent in conducting surveys on media communication in communities. Tired and hungry, some 12 of us grad students and two faculty advisors ate our dinner before a black and white TV, gloated and cheered while the Miss Universe contest winners were announced, and yelled victoriously when the winner was Ms. Philippines Gloria Diaz. We went giddy with shrieks of delight. Beauty and brains, remarked many. Silly, but we all took the victory very personally, and each felt to be the crowned queen, walking the plank with the jeweled crown balanced precariously on the head.

In the midst of all the raucous celebration in the room, we were suddenly silenced by a solemn voice on the tube as the pictures changed. Appeared were hazy shots of the first moon landing. The sudden shift of mood was dramatic. Silent awe settled in as we all stared at the slow movement of two humans clad in white heavy space suits. The image seemed dreamy – like it was fantasy. Yet is was so real! Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. It is reported that they brought back to earth the first samples from another planetary body. Think how that boosted earth and outer space research and exploration, not to mention the scientific, technological and health benefits for humanity now and the future. Over the years, new knowledge and research progress have been achieved. First, man alighted on the moon 50 years ago, and now, we aim to live on it?

This NASA official on TV remarked that it won’t be a surprise if 20 years hence we find the moon to be habitable! Sometimes I gaze at a full moon at night and reach out pretending to touch it – a quirk I’ve had since I was a little girl — but live on the moon? I don’t know how that would blur my romantic notion of that brilliant heavenly body that hides and reappears as it glides magnificently across the sky.

Linda P. Jacob