It is now 50 years since Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the Eagle lunar lander and placed his space boot onto the Moon’s dusty surface, uttering those immortal words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” And yes, even though five decades have passed since that literally groundbreaking achievement, no singular achievement has come near to replicating the unity and joy of the moment where human beings shook off the bounds of Earth and set foot on another body in the skies.
From the very moment that we as a species learnt to use sticks as tools, light fires, plant seeds and harvest crops, tell stories and look above at night, we have always had a sense of adventure. It is looking at the stars and wondering what is there that inspired us to count time and the passing of seasons with the phases of the Moon.
The lunar programme was the culmination of our transformation from telegram to telephone, sail to oil, books to binary and represented the best that mankind had to offer in a visionary race to go to our nearest neighbour
We possess an innate desire to explore and voyage over the seas. History tells us that our quests for new lands and our desire to explore have been tempered by subjugation of others, slavery and colonisation. But mankind too has flourished by the interchange of cultures, the exchange of ideas, the willingness to embrace new ideas.
Whether it be through the threads of our separate cultural developments, our own religions, our own acceptance of philosophies, reasoning and education, our determination of norms and values — when those threads are united in a common bond of kinship and respect, mankind as a whole has benefited.
The lunar programme was the culmination of our transformation from telegram to telephone, sail to oil, books to binary — and represented the best that mankind had to offer in a visionary race to go to our nearest neighbour. We choose to do so, in the immortal words of President John F. Kennedy: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept.”
Yes, we reached to the Moon, but we may have lost that drive, that unity of purpose, that enterprising spirit. Instead looking to the stars now, we look at each other and see differences. Overcoming those remain our greatest obstacle to adventure and unity of purpose.