Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first time human beings stood on a natural body other than the Earth. Somewhere I read a quote of Michael Crichton to the effect of, if you had told someone at the end of the 19th century that we would land people on the Moon, and then within a few years, lose interest, they would have thought you were crazy on both points. But the sixth landing on the Moon, Apollo 17, was the last time human beings have been more than about 1000 kilometers from the surface of the Earth.
This was brought home to me yesterday when I finished reading Stephen Baxter's novel Voyage, which is an alternate-history where the United States lands people on Mars in 1986. Baxter's strength is that he can go into great detail regarding the technology, rocketry, and NASA politics to make it a realistic story of how it might have happened.
Anyway, here's hoping that we regain the spirit of exploration that we somehow lost. If we do, maybe we should call the program "Phoenix."
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