Fifty two years ago, humankind reached the culmination of what President Kennedy called "the most hazardous, dangerous, and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." An adventure that was crowned with the immortal words "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
(If that doesn't really make sense to you, it's because Armstrong screwed it up, he was supposed to say "That's one small step for A man...")
Despite the fact Opportunity (and it's WIP sequels) are works of fiction, NASA hasn't stopped its incredible missions in space. And as the Opportunity series makes clear, space exploration is a passion of mine.
From 1969 to 1972, NASA launched nine human missions to the moon. Six of which successfully landed allowing twelve men to walk on the lunar surface. But we haven't been back.
Since the end of the Apollo program, we've stayed in orbit, hugging our small, planetary island home. We haven't stopped. The International Space Station has been continuously manned, in Earth Orbit, for more than 20 years, but we haven't pressed out further than that Low Earth Orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
Readers of Opportunity will have seen my admiration for the ISS and the unique and incredible viewpoint it offers. It's an amazing, orbital lab and outpost, giving us the ability to run experiments that can't be done anywhere on the Earth's surface. And it gives us a view of our world that so few are able to see. A view that reminds us that borders are nothing more than made up lines, that we are one human family. It shows astronauts just how petty our squabbling is and how fragile our home is. But ISS orbits at less than 300 miles above the surface of the Earth. In the grand scheme of things, that's not very far. Especially when you consider that the Apollo missions that went to the moon went as much as 240,000 miles... one way.
Despite what has felt like a lull in our exploratory spirit, the brilliant minds at NASA are working hard to push on, preparing for humanity's next great adventure beyond our world. By 2024, NASA plans to put the first woman, and next man back on the moon. But the Artemis Project isn't just going back to the moon to make a few footprints, plant a flag and grab some rocks. No, Artemis will hopefully establish a long term lunar outpost, one that will help become a leaping off point to Mars and greater points beyond in our solar system!
"Humans are the most fragile element of this entire endeavor. And yet we go for humanity. We go to the moon and on to Mars to seek knowledge and understanding and to share it with all. We go knowing our efforts will create opportunities that cannot be foreseen. We go because we are destined to explore and see with our own eyes. We turn towards the moon now, not as a conclusion, but as preparation, as a checkpoint toward all that lies beyond. Our greatest adventures remain ahead of us.
We. Are. Going."