Editor: IAN BARNETT
Society Notices-G. M. CARPENTER
Sports Section-A. BERRIMAN Literary Section-D. BOOTLE
27 July 1969
PER ARDUA AD ASTRA
This week thoughts have very definitely been celestial. Those who endured a sleepless weekend will find certain images permanently engraved on the memory: the tension of the lunar touchdown, the long preparation for the moonwalk. the two astronauts cavorting clumsily over an alien planet. Man's first tentative steps on another world resembled uncannily the prophecies of countless science-fiction epics, yet the sense of actuality, of the events being real and instantaneous never vanished, aided perhaps by the Americans' almost obsessive preoccupation with being prosaic. It was probably the first occasion which carried a sense of the historic, without the mass media needing to convince their audience that it was. Perhaps because Aldrin and Armstrong were not poets, the mission seemed inevitable, fated to succeed and never unreal. Yet there remained a sense of awe; actually being presented with television pictures "live from the moon" would move all but the really cynical. The entire venture stands as a tribute, not only to the American programme and the achievements of its technology, nor to the courage and cool-mindedness of the three pioneers themselves, but also to the superb world communications that allowed so many to take part in the great adventure. And with the lunar landing we entered the era of science fiction. Suddenly even the most startling visions of the future no longer seem so remote or unlikely, particularly since developments can take place so rapidly. The world of "2001" is closer this weekend than ever before. After the completion of the Apollo programme, which involves a further nine moon landings, and may culminate in the establishment of a permanent laboratory on the moon, the target is almost certainly Mars, fifty million miles and nine months' journey away. The real importance of the moon landing lies in the tremendous boost it has given those who work to reach the planets. There no longer seems to be any real reason why men should not travel anywhere in the Solar System and beyond, bearing in mind the old adage that "to mankind nothing is impossible, given time and money". Dates cannot be predicted with any accuracy, the future is totally fluid. All that is certain is that space exploration and discovery will continue with increasing speed and success for a very long time ahead. Those who criticise the expenditure of the space programme on moral grounds are deceiving themselves. All must agree that it would be fine and noble to use these vast resources in putting the miseries and evils of this fraught and profligate planet to rights. None would deny that, in real terms, bringing a million people back above starvation level would be of more human value than landing on the planets, particularly since we know human life could not exist, except under very special conditions, anywhere else in the solar system and the ultimate end of the space programme cannot therefore be to alleviate the population pressures on Earth. Yet it is pure speculation to suggest that money saved by curtailing space exploration would be used to aid directly the poor of the world. More aid could well be given by the privileged world to help the underprivileged, but to demand more of America, whose contribution is by far the most generous already, is to be prejudiced in the execution of idealism. The pillorying of the United States is, unfortunately, another example of humanitarianism masking anti-Americanism, the hypocrisy that has defeated youth demonstrations throughout this dying decade. The world would be a beautiful planet if people were not as they are, but no amount of money will change human nature. Since America has a perfect right to dispose of her resources as she sees fit and has never been torn between continuing the space programme or aiding the poor of the world, the arguments opposing travel to the planets, are, in a sense, irrelevant. Man as a creature has an aspiration towards the discovery of the unknown, which must be satisfied once the circumstances are fully apprehended. Perhaps the near future will see the ridiculous race into space abandoned and a new era of international co-operation arise, putting together technical expertise and financial resources in order to speed up the exploration of space. Life in the solar system is, in terms of the entire universe, spectacularly young and soon doomed to extinction. We have reached our own moon, yet when we attain the remotest planet in the sun's orbit we will scarcely have scratched the surface. Other suns are so immensely distant; the nearest would only be reached after four years' travel at the speed of light. Even then the dark mysteries of the universe call further on; if the coming of the 'seventies is a time to applaud our technical achievements, it is also a time to appreciate the squabbles of our planet in their true perspective. As we clumsily reach out for the stars, let us not miss the opportunity to end irrevocably the rifts in civilisation. The plaque on the moon reads:
"We came in peace for all mankind".
Let it not be a hollow victory.