First steps. We never forget them. Our children’s first steps were heralded with huge smiles, cheers, claps and the clicks of a camera. We recorded the event, knowing this was the beginning of a new world for our offspring. There would be falls and scraped knees, and bumps on the head; the price of independence, curiosity, discovery. Our little beings were on a risky mission that we knew was so necessary. Yet, didn’t we secretly want them within arms length so we could collect them back into our safe grasp? But that is not what first steps are for. It is not an experimental wonder for celebration and then a stoppage of walking. Nope. Once our little ones got the hang of it, we were done. Those wobbly steps of our toddlers would soon turn into adults running from us as they hurry to make that flight. My ninth grandchild is about to walk independently—even as I post this, the deed may be done! While I want her to score high on that ‘Denver Developmental Rating Chart’ I want to keep her a baby a little while longer. Identical thoughts when her mother–and siblings were eleven months old.
But my world has launched into another love of ‘first steps’. And if you know me at all, you will shake your head, roll your eyes, and say, “Apollo 11.” Yep. Today was the day, oh so many years ago, when America took its first steps on the moon. I have never stopped loving the stories, history, and science connected with this event. Secretly, I long to walk upon the moon’s surface and gaze back on Earth. I peer up at the full moon and am almost a bit homesick for a place I’ve never been. Is that even possible? While I marvel at the International Space Station, and will forever feel such a kinship to the space shuttle program—and do think we should continue fly-bys and efforts to visit Mars….the moon owns my heart.
I teach Lunar Science with finesse, facts, and an infallible hunger to excite young minds to realize what the moon has to offer. On those early Apollo missions, so many ‘spin-offs’ (inventions for space travel that ended up as ordinary tools in today’s world) can be seen in our ER/trauma rooms, tools, prosthetics, sports equipment and on and it goes. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what NASA did for the realm of electronics, computer technology, fiber optics, etc. But the reason we need to seriously consider lunar exploration is because the moon’s regolith is abundantly rich in Helium 3 gas. This would be a clean, stable, fuel source for our planet. A very small amount of Helium 3 gas can support a vast amount of our fuel needs. Solar winds deposit this gas into the soil of our own natural satellite. We are past collecting moon rocks for museums; it is time we attain a very real fuel source from our closest neighbor. Oh, by the way. A lunar base/outpost makes perfect sense if we are serious about mining asteroids, exploring planets, and becoming knowledgable beings in our lovely, spiral Milky Way galaxy.
There is much to celebrate regarding those “small steps for man; giant leaps for mankind.” Our lunar pioneers gave us so much more than just science. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins captured the American spirit by being brave, problem solvers dedicated to an assignment that had no guarantees. Oh yeah. A word about the unselfish act of Michael Collins….the Apollo 11 astronaut no one remembers. He was the one in the command module, orbiting while the other two left footprints on the moon. Almost NO ONE ever remembers the names of the guys who orbited in the command modules. This is a lesson in unselfishness that I always share with kids. I tell them it is like this: two kids/astronauts get to go to Disney World/moon, while the other kid/astronaut gets to drive around the parking lot/orbit in space. NASA trained the best and assigned the jobs–no whining allowed. One part of the equation that is omitted in space exploration is the ‘me me-pick me-look at my space selfie’ moronic thinking. It is teamwork, cooperation, and following instructions, and years of perseverance. Already I can think of folks that couldn’t hack it.
I am sure most of you have clicked off this post by now. I get it. I hooked you with a line about babies walking and took you to the moon. Well, this is how I roll. I salute the space-faring American astronauts who did what no one had done before: visited our planet’s moon and came home to tell about it. One of my female students had the most awesome quote on her binder:
“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when I know there are footprints on the moon.”
The next week the class and I built an imaginary lunar base/outpost in class—as I have done for so many years of teaching. It is my best lesson in which I combine scientific principles with imagination. The kids are so excited with their research and final product there are no words here to describe it.
They are simply, “over the moon.”
We owe them to return. And I am sure that those Apollo astronauts will be cheering us on.