The moon-landings would have been an achievement of mythical proportions at any time in human history. Tens of thousands of years gazing at the sky, unable to touch pale white skin of Luna, bearer of a torch in a sea of night. For a human to go where no King, Emperor, Tsar, Kaiser, or Pharaoh has ever been achievement on par with demigods like Hercules or Orion.
““It suddenly struck me that, that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small“, – recalled Neil Armstrong, the first of our kind to walk the Moon.”
We can only speculate on what ancient orators and philosophers would have said upon hearing that mere mortals, of flesh and blood, vice and virtue, from man and woman, walked the surface of the moon. Not only did they gaze at their blueish wobbly home themselves, but detailed paintings of unimaginable beauty with a message of fragility and protection were also brought back for us to awe.
For the first time in the history of consciousness on our planet, was our species confronted with undeniable proof of soul-crushing insignificance of our existence in the dark nothingness that encompasses us. Yet, simultaneously, that gorgeous white, blue, and green sphere that every single one of us was conceived on looked so precious, homelike, and worth preserving.
“It suddenly struck me that, that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small“, – recalled Neil Armstrong, the first of our kind to Walk the Moon.
But looking back, this triumph of science somehow pales in the context of the century it was conceived in, a time of unfathomable brutality.
“The very fact that this unbelievable feat of science and ingenuity was possible only because we were in the midst of the business of killing each other is disturbing, to say the least.”
Two global conflicts of the 20th century killed more people than roamed the whole European continent only a few hundred years prior. More souls perished in two conflicts, lasting merely 11 years combined, than the whole might of the Roman empire held as its subjects at its height.
Notwithstanding, the end of the slaughter was commemorated by a scientific firework of biblical proportions. The nuclear bomb marked an end of one era and inadvertently thrust us to a new age—an age where for the first time, the man had the tools to destroy his home.
The very fact that this unbelievable feat of science and ingenuity was possible only because we were in the midst of the business of killing each other is disturbing.
How ironic is that the rockets that put a man on the moon were engineered by people loyal to those who started the second wave of killing in 1939? After all, the rockets themselves were produced primarily to carry the mother of all bombs for thousands of miles, to rain fire and death upon enemy cities.
“How ironic is that the rockets that put a man on the moon were engineered by people loyal to those who started the second wave of killing in 1939?”
How ironic is that Saturn V rockets, ones that propelled Apollo missions, were developed by Wernher von Braun, a former member of the Nazi party, a key scientist behind the German V-2 rocket program? More people died, mostly as slave laborers brought from concentration camps, building these rockets, than were killed by them in action. As if that should be a measure of efficiency at all.
In this sense, moon-landings pale. It is as if we needed to do something so gargantuan. So grandiose and ridiculously visible so that all suffering, death, gas chambers, fire bombings, nuclear bombings, terror bombings, mass graves, and human experiments would seem to have led us somewhere.
As if we needed to reach out to heavens directly, to confront God and ask for her forgiveness. To convince ourselves that there still was at least a droplet of humanity left in the century of death and wonder.