The Generation That Didn’t Go to the Moon

Posted on August 26, 2012

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I grew up on science fiction.  Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, HG Wells, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison.  Etc.

The entire history of human space exploration has happened within my lifetime, within the lifetime of Baby Boomers like me.  From Sputnik in 1957, through the moon landings in the ‘60s and ‘70s, to the current Mars “Curiosity” efforts, it has all happened in our era.

I saw, on a giant screen in a plaza in front of city hall in Toronto, Neil Armstrong set the first human step on the Moon.

He said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  And just over a second after he said it (because even the speed of light has limitations) 600 million people, and me, heard him say it.

I was raised on optimism.  We had gone to the Moon.  We were going to continue going further.  Eventually we were going to the stars.

I was raised on Star Trek.  There didn’t seem to be any limitations.

But.

But no one of my generation ever went to the Moon.  No one born after 1935 ever set foot on any planetary body except Earth.

Our optimism failed us, somehow.  Perhaps we failed us.

Instead of what we hoped, we have a faltering world, a damaged world, a world which cannot continue, which, because of climate change and ocean acidification, may not survive what we have done to it.  What we continue to do to it.  What we refuse to stop doing to it.  A world where the continuance of our civilization is the issue, not the stars.

I can’t help but think that the actual world which my generation has fashioned, has sanctioned, is somehow a diminished world, a betrayal of our optimism.  A mirror of our diminished, our compromised, hope for ourselves.

In our search for comfort and a suburban television Utopia, we surrendered our science fiction dreams.

The vanguard of my generation has already entered retirement.  I know now that no one of my generation will ever go to the Moon.

I guess we lost that dream awhile ago.

And didn’t notice.