I’ve always been a fan of space. Whether I was stargazing at night in the backyard (I never had an awesome telescope, but I always wished for one) or curled up watching televison shows like Star Trek or Babylon 5, I have forever believed that the human race’s future lies out there in the big black. It just makes sense, right? Our species managed to crawl out of the primordial ooze and then, after a healthy dose of time (billions of years, unless you’re a creationist), came to have dominion over the whole planet. The human race developed so many diverse languages, arts and sciences and I am convinced that a species that has evolved like ours is not destined to die out on the planet of its origin.
Anyway, I’m getting carried away with myself. Let’s talk about the Moon. Tomorrow, areas of the planet will be treated to a full solar eclipse as the Moon passes directly between us and the Sun. This is a pretty awesome, and somewhat rare, occurrence. In preparation for this, I watched Stargazing Live on the BBC last night (if you didn’t see it, I highly recommend catching it on iPlayer). As it was a show about the eclipse and the Moon in general, they had a special guest; Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon.
I’ve got a bit of a hero-worshipy man-crush going on for Buzz Aldrin (yes, I know that he is 85 years old), although I know that I probably wouldn’t agree with some of his politics and positions (he is a staunch Republican and has an interesting stance on global warming). However, all of that aside, this is a man who stood on the surface of the moon (and he once punched a moon landing conspiracy theorist in the face). There aren’t very many of those. I especially like how much he has owned the experience. Whereas Neil Armstrong (the first man on the Moon) was a very private person who didn’t talk much about the Moon landing, Buzz has never shied away from telling his stories. He does tell a good story too (seriously, watch that show).
So they were talking about space exploration (from the Moon to Mars and beyond) and it got me thinking about our planet and the people on it. If only the people of the world stopped hating each other, we could be exploring the stars. This is the same reason that things about space upset me a little bit. I can’t see a possibility of people putting aside their hatred and conflicting beliefs long enough for us to truly achieve something great. In Star Trek, it took aliens visiting the Earth before we all realised that we are not that different from each other and that we should work together for the common good of mankind. I have this feeling that if were to be visited by benevolent aliens, we would only pause our destructive ways for long enough to obliterate the aliens before returning our attentions to ourselves.
Something I learned from Stargazing Live last night was that Apollo 17 brought back pieces of the Moon which were then mounted on plaques and given as gifts by President Nixon (he was a nasty piece of work, but this gesture was nice) to the leaders of 135 countries around the world. Part of the letter that accompanied the Moon rock reads:
If people of many nations can act together to achieve the dreams of humanity in space, then surely we can act together to accomplish humanity’s dream of peace here on earth. It was in this spirit that the United States of America went to the moon, and it is in this spirit that we look forward to sharing what we have done and what we have learned with all mankind.
Forty years on from that and we are no closer to a worldwide peace that will allow us to explore the stars together. I find that incredibly saddening. It is hard for me to consider the vastness and majesty of space without thinking about how many people in the world would rather kill each other than simply live side by side. How can anyone look up into the night sky and not think that exploring OUT THERE is the greatest thing the human race could do together? The International Space Station (I think people often forget that we have a damn SPACE STATION orbiting the Earth with people on board right this very second) regularly sends back images of our world, with us all just tiny, invisible specks upon it. How is that not more sobering to everyone?
Had I the chance, I would show everyone on the planet that program from last night. I’d let them hear Buzz Aldrin talk about seeing the Earth from space and setting foot on a different celestial body and I’d ask them how they feel afterwards. The saddest thing is that I imagine many wouldn’t be moved in the slightest. I guess that I’ll just have to carry on being moved for them, at least until everyone comes to their senses.