Reflecting on Countdown to the Moon a year ago – 1823 Kennedy

My younger son, Christopher, had been going to Coach David’s tennis classes for over a decade. Sonia and I both went to pick him up this time. I see our friend Meenakshi in the background talking to Sonia in the interview.

Kennedy was there and I struck up a conversation with him. He had been in the military. He takes yearly vacations to Thailand. And I remember it being a good conversation.

Kennedy in our conversation brings up two issues that will need to be addressed if we are going to become a space faring civilization with wide support.

First, “What new thing do we hope to discover on the moon that we did not discover in 1969.” This idea of space been about “firsts” and “achievement” needs to be shifted to “development” and “exploration” and “discovery”. But I think we need to put more of the emphasis on the “development of space infrastructure”. We need to create this compelling vision of humanity moving out into the solar system.

And perhaps it is not something that is possible to do with words. I think the idea of the space economy that some people envision will not be understood until after it happens. “Work with the willing” is a phrase we need to keep in mind. We should try to make the vision compelling and accessible. But at the same time, we need to be careful not to get in a situation where we feel we need everyone to buy into. What we need is to get enough to buy into it that it actually happens. Once it happens than the masses will be better able to understand it and support it. Until then it just feels like science fiction.

But one thing we must not do is undermine that future by emphasizing “one time goals”. Tell people it is about development and discovery. Tell them it is about exploration and about training to go further. But don’t tell them it is about simply “getting the first woman on the moon”. We will do that, and do it quickly. It is something that should have been done. But let us not use that to rally support. Because that support will turn into an obstacle, just as soon as that goal is met. “We got the first woman on the moon. Now let’s shut down the program.” We do not want to set ourselves up for this.

We are going to the moon as a “step into the future” … a future were humans travel the solar system like they voyage the globe. A future where humans can choose to live where ever they want. A future were the earth is protected from industrialization, but where humanity is unrestrained and can move forth.

The second issue that I noticed in Kennedy’s responses was the idea “We messed up the earth and we will just mess up the moon too.”. I will hear this idea many times over the coming year. I do not remember it as early as Kennedy’s interview. I thought it was an interview later in January. But it is something that comes up.

We humans are ashamed of ourselves. But we feel powerless to change it. And we do not want it to inconvenience ourselves. We want to become better for free. We think the problem with humanity is the other guy. We think “if only they would…” But humanity is all of us. Every injustice that any human does is the responsibility of all humans to some extent. And we need to continuously work to improve ourselves and to create the conditions that cause those around us to grow and to improve themselves. We need to sit down and learn to have dialog. We need to focus our energies on actually addressing and solving problems rather than our pastime of politics and economics. Betting on companies is less useful than creating them. Politics is less important than working with our neighbors to make our streets and neighborhoods better places.

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