Let There Be Cosmology.

by Bec Hawkings

No one from my generation will ever go to the moon.


The Cold War was the reason humanity ever went to space. The Russians had Sputnik, and so the Americans, terrified that their Red foes would get the upper hand, put men on the moon. In the battle of USA v USSR, there were arms races, and alliance races, and races to conquer the Third World, and the space race. Most of these races wrought devastation, their repercussions still felt in the twenty-first century. The space race, however, was the only moment throughout the entire torrid affair that lifted humanity above its minutiae.


It should have been a deeply political moment. The United States had won, claiming its temporary victory with a stars-and-stripes flag planted in the most ambitious land grab known to man. It was an American accent broadcasted around the world, and it was an American name – Neil Armstrong – that would be the catch-cry of every child of the moon-landing generation, whose imaginations had been stirred with, “…one giant leap for mankind.” But it wasn’t political. For one brief, shining minute, it was not an American who’s footprint was the first etched into the moon’s surface, but rather that of a human being. For one brief, shining minute, nationality and political allegiance did not matter – all that mattered was that we were the human race, and we had done something so astonishing that it would be our pinnacle of achievement for decades and centuries to come.


For one brief, shining minute, we realised how small we really are.


In the grand scheme of the universe, we are nothing more than specks of dust. Brilliant, destructive, wonderful dust, but specks of dust nonetheless. I think it does us good to be reminded of that from time to time. We get so caught up in the short-term and the details that we forget the big picture – that our lifespan is a blink, that our world is one of millions, and that we are insignificant. JFK asked America to trust him when he wanted to put a man on the moon within ten years. He asked America to trust in the long-term vision rather than the short-term political expediency, to trust in the abstract rather than the concrete.


And America said, “Yes.”


(They got to the moon in eight years).


We went to space because we were afraid of what the other guys were doing. We went to the moon because the other guys might get there first. Imagine what we could do if there were no ‘other guys,’ if there was no Cold War tension fuelling exploration. Imagine how magnificent we could be if we went back to space simply because we looked at the stars and said, “I wonder how far we could go.” Imagine the world’s most brilliant minds, in one room, with imagination fuelling their work rather than socio-political dogma.


It will never happen, of course. Today there are almost no space programs to speak of, and long-term visions like JFK’s are laughed out of the polling booth. Since the dawn of human history we have explored the world around us, and imagination has been at the heart of our progression. The twentieth century saw human knowledge of our world reach new, dizzying heights – not only did we understand space, but we actually went there. We were explorers, and adventurers, and a generation was built on the idea that human possibility is infinite. When we looked at our universe, we also re-examined the more immediate of our environments. Space travel encouraged innovation, and invention, and when space travel is possible our future here on Earth seems a little brighter. We are smaller, but we are all the more wonderful for it. Not anymore. We no longer go to space; we no longer look at the stars with the eyes of a child. We have grown old, and cynical, and it is because we no longer reach out towards the heavens, longing for more knowledge and more adventures. We have, in our own minds, become the centre of the universe once more. And we are poorer because of it.


No one from my generation will ever go to the moon.