by Rod D. Martin
July 20, 2019

For millennia, man dreamed of sailing among the stars and touching the face of the Moon. Fifty years ago, Americans achieved that once-unthinkable dream, one of the greatest accomplishments in all of human history. Perhaps even greater still: those Americans “came in peace, for all mankind.”

Countless souls made that achievement possible on Earth. But the men of Apollo 11 itself took their lives in their hands, rode the rocket, flew a ship that had killed three of their close friends just two years before, stepped out onto lunar soil many scientists believed would suck them up like a powdery quicksand never to be seen again, and did all of this in a time when all the computing power in the entire world was less than that which you hold in your personal iPhone.

Heroic hardly begins to describe them. 

Then, for half a century, nothing. No great movement into this new frontier. No grander exploration. Mankind built wonders in space to be sure, from Hubble and Voyager to a geosynchronous communications network and a Global Positioning System. But the spirit went out of it. Space became routine, and inspired little, as though America had collectively agreed with the Chinese emperor who called back Admiral Zheng He.

The next half century will be radically different. The new Space Age — the real Space Age — is upon us. A million of us will live in space 50 years from now. And that’s only the beginning.

There’s a reason for our stagnation, and a reason for our renaissance. To better understand both, read my “Reusable Rockets: Dawn of the New Space Age” from last year. But give due honor to the men and women who heroically brought us to the brink of all of it fifty years ago, even if their nation was not yet ready to build on what they achieved.

The New Space Age originally appeared as a Facebook post by Rod D. Martin.