Today is the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on another celestial body. Could we do it again today? I wonder…
I attend meetings of The Luncheon Society, a group organized by tireless banker Bob McBarton.
At a recent, meeting Steven Squyres and John Callas – Principal Investigator and Project Manager for the Mars Rovers – spoke (this was before Spirit got stuck) about the status and findings of the rovers, and what they envisioned as the next acts in planetary exploration.
He was asked what he’d do with enough money and how long it would take to put a human on Mars.
After he replied, I challenged him. The US space program in the 50’s and 60’s was based on the missile programs of the 50’s which were in turn based on the aircraft programs of the 40’s and WW II. We grew a crop of engineers and mechanics who first built airplanes, and then went on to build more-sophisticated airplanes and nuclear missiles – and who directly transferred that core body of technique and knowledge up the food chain to the space program.
That doesn’t exist today. We’re outsourced it to Taiwan and China, and I worry – seriously – about what it would take to grow enough engineers to do the job.
I don’t recall the source of the quote, but a landowner talked to his gardener about having some trees to shade the property. The gardener said, “But sir – it will take 50 years for them to grow that big!”
The landowner replied “Then you’d better start planting them this morning.”
We need to start planting engineers in this country. So we can go back to the Moon, to Mars, beyond – and so we can build a smart grid, power plants, and all the other stuff we will need rebuild over the next 50 years.
That would be a fitting memorial to the people who built the things to allow men to walk on the moon.