Today is the 40th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon and I’m up there too today, somehow. Kennedy called space the New Frontier, and that was certainly what it felt like 40 years ago. I’m leaving out the Cold War context here to focus on social change for the moment. The Apollo missions showed us that the moon was a cold, dusty place and how beautiful and inviting Earth looked from outer space. I used to watch Star Trek, and the inside of Starship Enterprise looked cozier and cozier as the crew continued “To boldly go where no man has gone before” – a grammar structure, by the way, that drove grammarians nuts. This was the era of progressivism. No matter what your political leanings were, you believed that the world would become a better place if only people would buy into your mission. And you know, just look at the trailers to the two main Star Trek series and you’ll see what the many real frontiers in that era were.
The first trailer of 1966 is all about Captain Kirk and his two reports, but shows nothing of the men. All you see is empty space and a modern spaceship. When the series restarted everything was different. In the second trailer for the Next Generation series of 1987 with Captain Picard space is magical and beautiful, the man’s voiceover is emotional, and it’s clearly all about the people on board the ship, the men and the women, the ethnic mix, the mix of natives of the known world and assimilated aliens. The issues depicted over the years included war and peace, personal loyalty, getting over authoritarianism and dealing with leadership, class warfare and economics, racism and religion, sexism and human rights and feminism, and the role of technology, which was changing. Have a look:
The progressive age may be looking a little dated, but the whole concept of a trek and a mission is still very much alive. So back to the occasion itself: Those people setting out on the Apollo mission to land a man on the moon didn’t know how they were going to do it, and they frankly didn’t have the big picture. But they did it. This is something that I find very heartening. I really think we are an ingenious race and will always figure out how to make things work. But we do need frontiers to aim for, and the means to do it, and sometimes a visionary to push us.
Do you have a personal frontier? What are you going for?
- Fun and games! NASA site on how space travel has improved our lives posted by ShellTerrell on Twitter
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