40 years ago today, the first human explorers set foot on another world.
Six years before their fragile craft landed on the Moon, in a speech at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy explained why he was sending them there:
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. 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 organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
Why did we go to the moon? Because it could be done — and because we chose to do it.
Today, as our public discourse sags under the dead weight of tired “leaders” and entrenched interests, all deeply vested in the impossibility of change, all counseling hesitation and prudence and delay, it’s worth remembering that once, not so long ago, within living memory in fact, we disregarded their counsel and chose boldness instead of timidity.
And history was made.
Why? Because we chose to.
UPDATE (7PM): If you want to try your hand at running your own moon program, you might be interested to know that the 1993 DOS game Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space (BARIS) — a classic management sim that puts you in charge of either the American or Russian space program in 1957, and challenges you to beat your opposite number to a lunar landing — has been open sourced, so you can now download and play it free of charge on Windows and Mac (and presumably on Linux too via WINE, though I haven’t tried that yet).
BARIS is a tough game to beat — every move requires striking the right balance between pressing for fast progress and avoiding losing your astronauts and spacecraft to accidents — but if you like strategy games, you’ll burn up plenty of hours with this one. (Hat tip to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for bringing this to my attention.)