Human Exploration – Our Future and a Tribute to Apollo 11

“Twenty seconds and counting. T minus 15 seconds, guidance is internal. Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts. 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, all engine running, liftoff. We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11.”

It has been fifty years – July 1969 – since Apollo 11 lifted off from Florida to not only visit the Moon but to land on it and became the first inhabitants of the human race to step foot on the Moon and into the ledgers of history. Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins departed the comforts of the land we call Earth and rocketed through grips of the atmosphere, strapped to the top of a Saturn V rocket. Armstrong and Aldrin became the first members of the human race to set foot upon our moon and to collect artifacts from the lunar surface that provided the true treasure provided by the trip – educational knowledge. Yes, a lunar landing was a political goal as well, but it accomplished so much more than that. It’s incredible when you stop and think about it. This great feat of human achievement was brought about by advances in technology, the hard work of the human mind and a dream that was based partly in the goal of advancing civilization through educational knowledge.

Lately, I have noticed an uptick of programming concentrated around our past lunar activity. Some have not realized this milestone anniversary coming up. And there are, of course, those who were glued to their TV screens, when a soft-spoken yet accomplished astronaut/engineer named Neil Armstrong stepped off of the LEM and onto the surface of the Moon.

Many found it ironic that Armstrong was the one to make history, yet fitting as well. Armstrong was certainly more than accomplished but seen as a serious man who was drawn more to the engineering and piloting aspects of being an astronaut than the hype that such an explorer tended to carry.

Why do I mention this? In a time where we see hard times are seeing both good times and bad times of the human condition here on Earth, there are many who question the worth of further human exploration. “We have enough issues here!”, some say. True – point taken. In addition to all of the good stories of human accomplishment that we bear witness to, we also bear witness to a great number of tragedies that come from a society made up of imperfect beings – war, food insecurity, poverty, crime and health epidemics to name a few.

However, that is not a reason to halt the advancement of civilization. Human civilization has always gone forward based on the advances of human achievement, accomplished through some mode of exploration. At one time in history, farming was an unknown frontier to be explored. So too were the seas that had yet to be sailed upon and the lands that were unknown to human eyes. Yes, even the skies were once an unknown world. Yet, we – the human race – explored them and found out what the fish saw in the waters and what the birds saw in the skies. We relied upon our intuitive skills and our technology on hand to gain the greatest treasure of all – educational knowledge. This knowledge was then used to make the human condition better and advance civilization forward. How can we stop this now? Are we to let the sadness of imperfections rule our future kingdoms? How do we keep advancing should we stop? No. We must continue exploring – whether that be more of the skies, space and ocean waters to other elements of this world that we are only just discovering. That is how we survive and sustain the human race and civilization.

The second reason I mention the Apollo 11 mission is in regards to the human element. There were those who questioned why mankind was doing this at all. Remember this – human accomplishment is nothing without the people who do the work. Those who have achieved much in this world and who have “made history” have been people, just like you and I. These people made a difference. So can you and I. We have many new frontiers before us, some known and some unknown. One of our new frontiers is continuing to gain educational knowledge with the aid of technology, whether that be in training others in a classroom, in a lab or by exploring in the field. The one common factor is that this work will be done by humans, whether by our hands our programmed into some form of artificial intelligence.

I make this point and this reference to a historical milestone that occurred 50 years ago for this reason – we are all capable of accomplishing something and leaving a mark in history. Whether it be in your family, by serving on a town/city committee or serving in some other capacity, we all have the ability to make a difference, just as the crew members and members of Mission Control did on the historic exploration feat that occurred 50 years ago this July.

No matter what you do in this life, do it well. Make a difference. Be the difference.

Exploring Old Frontiers – Discovering The Keys To The Future

The vastness of the sky. The mystical aura of the Moon. The silent yet entrancingly alive depths of the ocean. What life exists in these areas? What mysteries are still to be uncovered in these frontiers? What more can humans learn of the unknown frontiers that exist before us? The sky. The Moon. The waters of our lakes and oceans. As a human race, we have seemingly explored these frontiers. Indeed, we have traveled places that seemingly no other has gone and conducted experiments to help us understand these worlds that we co-exist within yet still seek to understand. What impact and benefits can be gained from understand and, perhaps, finding new ways to live with and among these frontiers? Do you notice all of the questions here? Questions represent unanswered facts – facts that can advance our understanding of the world that we live in and how we can co-exist with it. You see, we may have seemingly explored our frontiers – the elements of the world that we live within. But, there is more to explore – more to learn. We must learn to co-exist with and respect the parts of our world and universe that we operate within along with figure out ways to utilize those frontiers in a beneficial way at the same time.

As a student of history, the motivating factors behind the exploration of what have been deemed “new frontiers” have long fascinated me. Those who made these journeys sought answers to unasked questions. They sought, whether cognizant of it or not, to help the world understand the elements and environments around them better. With this understanding comes the ability to respect that new frontier – to understand it and respect it. Along with this also comes knowledge of how to potentially co-exist within that environment and benefit from it. We must be careful, though. The unwise destroy worlds while the wise accomplish one goal while sustaining the natural environment. Either way, we still have much to learn. Our journey into what is possible has only just begun.

It seems that we still have much to benefit from in the future exploration of the frontiers that we have already explored. That is because we have explored them superficially. I see three different areas where exploration of the world around us can still be a relevant, and even a necessary, endeavor. While you can likely, and can, think of more, these are ones that stick out to me.

First, we are always expanding our knowledge based by learning new things. No one man nor woman can claim to all about any subject. That simply is not realistic or human. Though we strive for it, perfection is not attainable. Thus, if we are not perfect, we must have room to improve, grow and learn. We must learn to respect and not drastically alter the landscape of the world that we operate within in regards to its natural essence.

Nothing points to this fact more than our societal lack of the world around us. If we had no more to learn, our waters would all be clean and pure, pollution would not exist and we would not have things such as endangered species list. Clearly, we have more to learn about and from in regards to our frontiers.

Second and third, not only do we need to learn more about the environment around us – we need to learn to co-exist among these frontiers. Now, this is where the waters may seem to deviate from the standard view and become murky. As humans, we have certain needs. Our frontiers can help us obtain some of our basic needs through co-existing. Now, how does that work? Point 1 in this article mentions understanding our environment and respecting it. How does that work with utilizing our environment to benefit us? Through very careful and strategic planning. It will require social responsibility, common sense, humanity, empathy and ethical behavior.

So, how do we meet our basic needs through exploration of the frontiers of our world? The answer is through continued exploration and understanding of the world around us. As humans, we struggle with sustainable resource production – namely food security and space. We also struggle with distribution centers and deserts for resources. As we expand our horizons, we can use our frontiers in two ways – so long as it is done in a respectful, non-damaging, sustainable manner.

Think about it. We have and continue to explore outer space, new planets along with the depths of our oceans. Humans are making these journeys along with their human needs. We need to figure out how to produce food and resources to sustain them along with communities – livable to humans as well as those native to the environment. On the other hand, we are always striving to better ourselves and our society and world. Space and food/resources. Do the answers lie within exploring the vast skies of space and the depths of our waters? Can these areas support production centers or communities in a sustainable manner? How did these places come into existence to start with and how can we better understand them to answer the questions that I am asking? Future exploration is the key.

The desire to explore and the ability to learn have long been among our most endearing qualities. They are qualities that have allowed us to survive thus far, despite our darker notions attempts to reach out extinguish our own fires. Exploring new frontiers, learning from them, respecting them and understanding how to live amongst them has been how we have moved the needle forward in the past and is the answer to how we advance ourselves and sustain our world in the future.