I just read a story in the Richmond-Times Dispatch about the Smithsonian’s new $79 million dollar conservation hanger at the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport, where among its many artifacts that are being prepared for conservation are Apollo-era spacesuits. Those spacesuits are now 40 and 50 years old. They are fragile, brittle and deteriorating. Conservators are working on ways to slow the decay.
It made me reflect on the fact that the incredible act of putting a man on the Moon is a historic event. America put 12 men on the Moon between 1969 and 1972, and then stopped. No man has set foot on Earth’s natural satellite since December, 1972.
China, the 3rd country to successfully conduct a soft moon landing – the U.S. and the former Soviet Union being the first two – safely landed a robot called Jade Rabbit on the moon in December and it has sent back scientific information, but it has suffered a mechanical problem and could stop working. The robotic rover was named Jade Rabbit after the Chinese mythical rabbit that was said to have lived on the moon.
How well I remember that first Moon landing in 1969. I was working at WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina. My son Rick, a small boy at the time, and my late wife Judy, and I could look out our den window and see the bright full Moon as we watched the lunar landing on TV. We had just bought our first color set to see it in color. It was telecast in black and white. Still, we then had a color TV to enjoy for many years.
Rick was ten years old at the time, so he can remember the event, so it’s not just history to him. But, it is just history for anyone over 45-years-old.
Will any country put a man on the Moon in the future? It’s possible, but with sophisticated robots to give us scientific information about it, why spend all that money and risk human life? Space exploration continues, but it’s a robot’s game. Who would want to spend the 150 to 300 days in a small space ship it would take to get to Mars? That’s what it has taken for the different spacecraft that have made the trip over the last 50 years.