The passing of the man who made that one giant leap for mankind, should give us all pause to consider exactly what that small step signified.
The lunar landing was met by a universal reaction of awe and celebration that was much bigger than the efforts of one nation or one man. It was a celebration of human achievement. Neil Armstrong’s famous quote clearly ascribed the success to “mankind”, as did the plaque left by the mission, which read: “We came in peace for all mankind”.
It was a fine hour for America, but an even greater moment for the world.
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A friend posted on Facebook today: “When I was a little girl I loved learning about space, solar systems, planets, walking on the moon. But when I grew up I learnt how much space exploration costs and how many people here are sick, hungry, abused. Now I see no justification for funding our curiosity until we improve life on earth”
Yesterday I spoke to another friend who was beside himself with excitement at this extraordinary pursuit of knowledge, and the incredibly feat that we – mere blips in the great expanse of the universe – have landed Curiosity on Mars.
There are the heartbreaking questions that come alongside the expansion of human understanding, that come with doing things that have never been done before just to see if we can… those heartbreaking questions include: Why is it more important to explore a dusty, red planet that has taken eight years and two and a half billion dollars to reach; than to feed the 25000 people who die every day from poverty.
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Trust the Yanks to use a gridiron term to describe the landing of the one-tonne plutonium-powered rover, Curiosity, on Mars.
But it was somewhat appropriate considering the landing itself was something of a “Hail Mary pass” - a phrase that originated in American football, meaning a very long forward pass made with limited chances of success.
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A NASA astronaut probably won’t be the next person to take a small step for man on a planet or moon a giant leap away from Earth. The US space agency is a shadow of its former self, facing death of a thousand budget cuts. Its space shuttles are retired, their replacements canned.
It’s far more likely that the next footprint on the moon will be sponsored by a cashed-up entrepreneur. Think Richard Branson, the airline tycoon who founded Virgin Galactic. Or think American hotel chain billionaire Robert Bigelow, who wants to build a space station.
Or maybe think Gina Rinehart. Stuff NASA, we could have GINA: a Ginormous Investment in National Aerospace, sponsored by our very own chief mining magnate. Our richest person could put an Australian on the moon. Maybe even build an Australian colony. It would be revolutionary: for her, and for the country. And she could do it.
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Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the coming carbon tax calamity? No! It’s Asteroid 2005 YU55!
The 400m-wide rock (please let us know if you need this translated to Olympic swimming pool or football field units of measurement) will whiz by Earth today at a whopping 19km a second, a mere 324,600 km away. That’s closer than the friggin’ moon!
But don’t head for your swine-flu-resistant bunker, we’re going to be fine. Reassuringly, NASA says we’re not going to get smashed to bits by asteroids for 100 years. That means your bunker’s probably a good real estate investment, keep stockpiling that Spam!
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So, uh, seen any space junk around? NASA says the biggest piece of post-orbital litter has landed somewhere on Earth, but despite the fact Government authorities can track anyone, anything, anytime, they’re not quite sure where it hit.
Canada’s their best bet, but in Italy they weren’t taking any chances, and one government authority warned citizens to stay indoors.
So, got any Unidentified Crap in the backyard? Or more general crap you want to talk about? It’s Monday, Punchers, what’s on your minds?
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Thursday December 9, 2010, was an interesting day for news in the world. It was the first time in human history a private company launched and returned a capsule from orbit, possibly opening transport possibilities to the International Space Station.
The interesting thing about this is the remarkable lack of fanfare surrounding anything to do with humanity’s exploits in space these days.
When you consider that 40 years ago the world stood united by the feat of landing a person on the moon, it’s quite remarkable that now, when people are in space are doing life threatening work on a space station people really don’t care.
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The world’s top space agency had a recent, desperate attempt to tap into popular culture - by having a crack at bad Hollywood science.
You really can’t fault NASA for trying. Last year it was told it must drop its dreams of replacing its dead Shuttle fleet and give up on its attempt to recapture the post Cold War frenzy of the world’s first Moon landing.
After all, this is the agency that brought the world its first reusable space craft and created the world’s second “permanent” space orbiter, SkyLab - a feat which continued to bring joy to earth-bound enthusiasts as its fiery debris rained down across our land and oceans.
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The FIFA World Cup bid announcement won’t be the only huge story tonight. In America, at 4am eastern Australian time, NASA appears certain to announce it has found signs of life on a moon of Saturn.
No doubt it’ll just be boring microbes or, you know, some kind of shapeless Lara Bingle monster. But hey, life’s life. Well done, NASA. Thank you in advance, as they never, ever say in the classics.
Only one question now remains. Is there any evidence of life in NASA itself? Let’s examine the evidence…
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It’s Tuesday at The Punch.
American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon today in 1969. Space junkies can launch their own interactive moon landing mission here.
Got something else on your mind? Share it here.
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Here’s a fact you might hear repeated quite a bit over the coming months. The past 12 months were the hottest ever.
Data from NASA reportedly confirms the period from May 2009 to April 2010 was the hottest 12-month period in its records. This does rather challenge the view, which has been increasingly fashionable, that climate change is questionable or might not be happening at all.
The embarrassment of the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia and evidence of dodgy studies being cited by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were hugely damaging to the standing of the scientific arguments that the world is heating up. But the scientists are back in the saddle, publishing a stream of evidence that climate change is still doing quantifiable damage to the planet. This week there have been some doozies.
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It’s Tuesday @ The Punch
Today in 1961 Soviet astronaut Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin became the first man in space.
Jeff Greenfield, CBS News Senior Political Correspondent once quipped that more things in politics happen by accident or exhaustion than happen by conspiracy.
Inarguably his four decades of experience - which includes time as a speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy - enable him to make such informed statements, but as the son of a politician I will venture that if it wasn’t for John Della Bosca’s sex antics and the occasional fantastically implausible conspiracy theory, politics would be as boring as bat guano.
Conspiracy theories have been a popular part of Western politics since 10.15pm on April 14, 1865 when John Wilkes Booth walked into Ford’s Theatre and assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Immediately after Lincoln’s assassination questions arose. Was Booth solely responsible or was he someone’s hired gun, and if so, whose?
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Photography in space had a slow start. The first American to orbit the earth was John Glenn, the addition of a 35mm camera to his equipment on board Friendship 7 in February 1962 was according to NASA’s official history website “an afterthought”
“An Ansco Autoset 35mm Minolta was bought at a drugstore and hastily modified so the astronaut could use it more easily in a pressure suit.” The website goes on to tell us.
Little it seems was expected of these early attempts at photographs in space.
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The moon landing captured the world’s collective imagination in a way that has been unparalleled either before or since.
This is part of the the newly digitally-enhanced NASA footage of the landing:
Humanity’s will to discover has been the engine room of progress and Neil Armstrong’s steps on the moon are perhaps humanity’s greatest achievement of discovery and a most magnificent triumph of the will.
It was an achievement born of one President’s declaration combined with seven years of political will to realise it.
Earlier this week I was banging on about what a shame it is that nobody much cared about the space program anymore.
So this morning, at the risk of sounding like some kind of space obsessed nut, I was thrilled to see NASA release this new footage of the moon landing to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
What is even better about this story is that NASA had to borrow four video tapes of the landing from around the world after taping over their original footage.
I have a theory that about 90 per cent of the viewer interest in motor sport of any kind is the potential to watch serious crashes.
Just look at what they show from the “highlights” of the Daytona series on Sports Tonight – it’s 40 cars doing quadruple flips over each other at 200 kilometres with the commentator yelling “whoa mamma!”
As space shuttle Endeavour waits on the Florida tarmac like so many QANTAS “express” flights, any interest we maintain in the NASA space program has similarly boiled down to the initial take-off explosion and whether or not the shuttle will blow-up before it touches back home. This is a shame because space exploration is an amazing and important human achievement.
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