To Be Young and Headed to the Stars

I would pay dearly for young people to feel what it was like to be a scientifically minded child in the 1960s. It was a special and beautiful moment. Each week there was a new step toward the stars. And this was not science fiction, this was real. There was an exhilaration to it that I don’t think can be found in any other venture. The door to infinite space was creaking open for us.

Never, in all the long history of mankind, had the heavens been reachable. And then, suddenly, they were. Satellites were going up one after another… and functioning. A few men, strapped perilously to the tops of dangerous rockets, followed.

Then came the Gemini program, and our first serious steps away from the planet. As it moved forward, we saw men living in space for more and more days at a time; they learned to rendezvous; they even left their capsules and “walked in space.”


And then we geared-up for a trip to the moon… and succeeded!


Why wouldn’t a young person believe humanity was on its way to the stars? Humanity WAS on its way to the stars!

On top of that, we had Star Trek. While Star Trek was clearly fiction, it was easy to see it as just a few steps ahead of us. And Star Trek was all about morality tales. We looked forward not only to an interesting future, but to a good one, where we all became better.

And again, this was not at all unreasonable – we were taking clear steps toward it day by day. This was REAL.

And Then…

And then, it all stopped. Skylab and the shuttle were steps backward, useful mostly for saving face. Humanity stopped progressing and pulled back from the stars. If any of us still need a reason to judge government as unworthy of our time and treasure, here it is.

Since space was closed, we’ve endured boring, washed-out decades, focused on anything but the awe-inspiring, the good, and the heroic. Five-plus decades have been stripped of the greatest excitement, discovery, and growth that was ever within humanity’s grasp.

Our current era features no goals save bodily comfort and no aspirations save status and trouncing one’s enemies. Underlying it all is a palette of manufactured fears that can only be salved by buying the right products or electing the right politicians. We are living though the triumph of manipulation and the disappearance of vigorous individuals.

To illustrate what we’ve missed, here are a few quotes from the men who walked on the moon:

It was to me like I was just sitting on a rocking chair on a Friday evening, looking back home, sitting on God’s front porch, looking back at the Earth; looking back home. It was really that simple, but it was an overpowering experience.
– Gene Cernan, Apollo 17

On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious… My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity… We went to the moon as technicians, we returned as humanitarians.
– Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14

Since that time I have not complained about the weather one single time. I’m glad there is weather. I have not complained about traffic; I’m glad there are people around. One of the things I did when I got home; I went down to shopping centers, and I’d just go there, get an ice cream cone or something, and just watch the people go by. And think “Boy we’re lucky to be here. Why do people complain about the Earth? We are living in the Garden of Eden.”
– Alan Bean, Apollo 12

As Neil and I first stood on the surface of the moon looking back at Earth—a bright blue marble suspended in the blackness of space—the experience moved us in ways that we could not have anticipated.
– Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11

Please remember that everything done back then was done with technology that is now obsolete. The stars are not beyond our grasp; it’s that our lives have been restrained, and our expectations that have been neutered.

Modern existence – the televised and taught-in-government-schools kind – can see nothing beyond comfort and status; discovery is a non-factor. The life they advertise features endless activity but is devoid of substance.

Still, a doorway to the stars stands open to us. But we must act on our own, rather than waiting for permissions that never really come.


Paul Rosenberg