Moon: 1. Meteors: 0. Man: 38
Every year, for my birthday, the universe puts on a spectacular light-show - the Perseids meteor shower - just for me and my family, or so I think sometimes. In the original Estonian, my name, "Täht", means "star or planet". I've spent far more time wandering all the stars and planets in the universe - in books, and lying flat on my back looking up, late at night - than I have with earthbound folk.
I cursed at the moon tonight because it drowns out the Tähts, it drowns out the Perseids, and it drowned out our space program
The full moon is as clear, and as sharp, and just as out of reach
as it has been my whole life. I can cover it with my thumb. I can see the shadow my hand casts on the ground and see the odds of humanity colonizing space in my lifetime grow longer, and longer.
I still hear John F Kennedy's voice in my head - his first speech, given May 25th, 1961
First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.
And from his second speech, given at Rice:
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is the one that we are willing to accept."
12 men reached the moon. All 12 came back.
If I could see just one falling star tonight I'd make a wish on it. It's long past time we did the other things
. Kennedy made it one goal to return those men that made it to the moon safely to earth. I can't believe he intended to stop there. It's long past time we sent expeditions to the asteroids, that we make it our goal to move into space, and stay there
In a nation scarred and enraged by 9/11, it seems ironic to me that the passing of the crew of the Columbia has only paralized the space program. No one, no politician, no pundit, no one in power in america seems to retain Kennedy's core vision: to do what it takes push humanity on to the stars.
We seem intent on throwing money down gravity wells - not just on the moon and Mars
- but in wars and useless government programs.
I stare at the sky this time of year, and I think about the Apollo and Aten asteroids: real estate, on the hoof, each with billions of tons of valuable raw materials
, each on an orbit that could take man on a grand tour of the solar system between venus and jupiter every four years. An asteroid mission would be a goal worthy of a presidental imperative, and practical besides. There's no gravity well to climb into or out of, no atmosphere to burn up in.
I dream of visiting and colonizing Toutatis
and Castilla, and I despair. Toutatis passes within 4 lunar distances on Sept 29th, 2004, and I know where I'll be. Sitting on a beach, watching opportunity slip by.
I know, even if the odds were thousands to one against my safe return to earth, I'd go to space. So would so many others. Even if the toll of names lost filled a monument the size of the vietnam memorial, it would be worth it.
"History will remember the inhabitants of this century as the people who went from Kitty Hawk to the moon in 66 years, only to languish for the next 30 in low Earth orbit. At the core of the risk-free society is a self-indulgent failure of nerve.
" -- Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut
Bonus Link: The Permanent plan for exploring the asteroids
. Many good links....