Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong R. I. P.

As a small child I recall being woken in the middle of the night, because my parents thought that I would want to see immediately the TV images which showed Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

To this day the music for "Thus Spake Zarathustra" as used by Stanley Kubrick at the start of the film 2001 (below) and which was also played on contemporary images of the Saturn V launch vehicles blasting off for the moon, makes me think about what an extraordinary achievement this was.

Communications satellites and weather satellites have generated enormous wealth and saved millions of lives. The rest of the space programme has yet to produce great benefits for mankind, but the time will come. For a start, we have yet to fully exploit the advantages which zero-G manufacturing could bring. For another, there are huge quantities of raw materials in the asteroid belt.

But the third reason mankind may ultimately be very grateful for the technology which put Neil Armstrong on the moon is this. Sooner or later within the lifetime of this solar system, it is statistically almost inevitable that an asteroid or comet at least as large as the one which apparently did for the dinosaurs will be on course to collide with earth.

If this happens while humans still have a high energy civilisation, the techology which put men on the moon may be the starting poing for a solution which saves most life on earth.

If that happens, the world will owe a huge debt to Neil Armstrong, who has just died. Either way his courage and the human achievement which his "One small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind" represented will be long remembered.

Rest in Peace


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