Image for First Step

Moon landing 20-21 July 1969

Through High School I had followed the Moon Race, making a scrap book that the librarian asked to keep for others to see, covering those heady years of the 1960s when it seemed that the Soviet Union could win, with so many firsts in space. Then in my first year of work, we stopped to go next door to watch grainy images coming live from the Moon of the first step beyond Earth. “We did it!” and the world applauded.

Sitting by an open fire beneath the stars and Moon on one winter’s night in 2006, mulling over this event in human history, I wondered if it might come to be seen as our last great feat in human exploration, unless we find a fast way to travel to the stars. Why? Because ever increasingly clever robots will always be first now, even building vast cities in orbit around distant stars in preparation for the humans arriving by the slow-boat on a voyage lasting many generations.

By the dancing flames and the Moon and stars, I came to see the idea of called the Moon landing the First Step, that might become a yearly celebration of human endeavour, remembered at the same time in time and space, wherever humanity called home across the Solar System and among the stars.

On that hour in July 1969 the whole world stopped to listen to the event on radios or watch it on television, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Sea of Tranquillity and declared, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

We had made the first step beyond the Earthly nest and into the celestial realm, where anything now seemed possible. In hind-sight we know the gates were open, but humans fell back to low Earth orbit and now the victor of the Space Race must go cap in hand to the Russians to beg a seat into space.

How strange.

To think that we could have started building a Solar Civilization drawing on the unlimited energy of our star with a foundation that would last as long as the Sun shines. But we fell upon the Earth with a vengeance and drilled deep into the belly of our planet for carbon energy, to release the toxin of too much CO2 into the air from long dead life. Now we are forced to wonder if we can even survive on Earth beyond a perfect storm of catastrophes pressing in upon us within this decade, or even survive the next giant asteroid to strike the Earth, which it will, if we are trapped on Earth.

We thought that we could do space development on the cheap, but we were wrong and now wings are being clipped. The challenge to achieve a sustainable human presence beyond Earth is now a most urgent one, to lift the human spirit back to the age of Apollo when anything was possible and get ourselves into a confident survival position to solve all problems on Earth.

With unlimited access to stellar energy, we can build a sustainable human presence on Earth. This is our choice. We can go whimpering into the night, or we can rage against the storm and fight for survival.

In this fight for the highest prize of all, a future with a future, we can stop to remember once a year that moment in time when an explorer from Earth stepped onto the Moon and know that we can again and go so much further.

Then one day among the stars, it might be remembered that it was the celebration of First Step that helped to unite humanity, once every year, in a shared vision for survival and an amazing future for all Earth’s children, on the home planet and among the stars.

Note: The date of the Moon landing is spread over a whole day across all time zones, giving this event two dates, the 20th and the 21st, depending on the time zone at the time of the first step.

‘Apollo’s Children’
by Rick Tumlinson

Image from here: