Editorial: Moon shot proves American aspiration
It was an against-all-odds idea. It was a plan that was as far-fetched as it was impossible. It was the kind of ridiculous idea that you threw out there as an example of ridiculous ideas.
But in 1961, John F. Kennedy gave the impossible a deadline. He stood before a joint session of Congress and said the United States would not just compete in the space race but win it. In less than nine years, we would send a man to the moon and bring him back alive.
It was at once insane and aspirational — a hopeful dream for a hopeless task.
But we did it. With five months to spare, Apollo 11 flew and the Eagle landed. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong’s boot left the first footprint on a surface that was no longer out of our reach.
That was 50 years ago. What have we done with that hopeful, insane, aspirational commitment to impossible tasks since then?
Today there may be more technology in a child’s pocket than there was the NASA control room that managed a flight into space to a distant rock. But we spend our time sharpening the tools we already have rather than looking at other problems that are crazy to even dream of solving.
We have challenges that can be met. We have races we can run. We can reach for distant stars.
We have it in our hands to end the very problems that rip us into factions and tear our world into shreds. There is no reason to fight about climate change when we could put a stopwatch on a solution.
“If we could put a man on the moon, we can …”
We could do what? We can do anything. We have shown that limits mean nothing when Americans want to achieve a goal. We speak of American exceptionalism, but the moon landing proved it is nothing compared with American aspiration.
World peace, safer schools, ending addiction, a cure for cancer. Pick a star, and we can shoot for it. We just need a common will to see it done.
But to do that, we need to join hands. We need to decide that regardless of the goal, the prize is succeeding. We didn’t win the space race by trying to sabotage the Soviets. We won it by improving our own program.
Fifty years ago, the unattainable goal was how far we could go.
Today, our moon shot is remembering that we are all in this together.