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Inner space reflections from outer space inspiration.

It was July 20th 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldron stepped onto the moon. The engineering required making the feat possible was ground breaking. (And for conspiracy theorists, 6 moon landings over a four year period since that first small step for (a) man, would make effort for such a cover up more astounding than the feat itself. Especially given mankinds evolutionary preferred penchant for gossipy chit chat over mysteries of the cosmos)

Over 530 million viewers worldwide watched the moon landing: in context remember that television access was nowhere near as prolific as these days. There’s no doubt the event lies at the heart of inspiration for countless individuals who have pursued careers in space or broader general scientific fields as a result. Even in popular culture and media the moon landing and full Apollo program spawned countless inspirations, fact and fiction, film, writing or television and even creative entertainment (think MTV with their top and bottom of the hour ident in their early years).

The innovation, the excitement, the inspiration.

All that said, there was also a dark side to the moon landing (pardon the Pink Floyd pun). At the time one particular slant, the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron (excerpt only here), sum it up nicely:

‘I can’t pay no doctors bill.
(But whiteys on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be paying still
(While Whiteys on the moon)

On one hand we have innovation and advancement into the heavens, a place we naturally tend to look when searching for answers for the most profound, common, existential questions:

Why I am here?
Where did we come from?
What is this thing called life and living all about?

On the other hand (a fair point): is such innovation important as a priority given that, with humanity and humility, here and now, on the one place we all collectively call home, there are people existentially existing in poverty and dire circumstance?

I’m sure someone grounded in science would be able to easily wax lyrical an endless list of innovations we wouldn’t have had it not been for the efforts and ultimate achievement of man walking on the moon: here’s a few examples that your average John or Gillian on the street might be familiar with:

– the concept of minituarisaiton (making things lighter, smaller and easier)
– ground global networks
– water purification
– breathing masks (think improved fire fighting equipment)

I guess, again flipping the coin, playing dark side of the moon devils advocate, it could also be said that some innovations, perhaps welcomed at the time, now come under some heat: think polymers, (polythene, polyvinyls and many non bio degradable substances).It’s another potentially existentialist production quandary in and of itself.

Nasa programs and space ventures in general seem to have became, to mass populations, a little blase. Interest most definitely waned for a while there. Perhaps in part people becoming desensitized: having seen one too many science fiction movies or complacent to the actual complexities involved in space travel.

Before the Challenger disaster in 1986 (where all 7 crew, including a civilian teacher, Christa Mcauliffe, lost their lives) the space shuttle program had a track record of over 20 successful missions in a row. The Challenger and Columbia disaster (breaking up on re entry) are what shocked people awake to remember that any quest for ascension to answers of mysteries hidden in the heavens and beyond is so not like riding your car down to the shops or the innovation required to give access to millions of apps that live in a miniature smart phone. Apps that, for many earthlings, have now become akin to their daily life support machine, something they simply cannot live without.

Governments and passionate, purpose driven professionals continue working tirelessly on countless space adventures and explorations. Nasa themselves are planning future moon landings for 2024 with a view the moon may act as a stepping stone for missions to Mars. I watched a recent documentary about the Cassini space probe. Apparently one of the most successful space missions of all time, about 20 years in duration voyaging to then exploring the planet Saturn: (we’re 3rdrock from the sun, it’s the 6thplanet from the sun) Yethow many people even heard about it?

The early space race was steeped in a genuine wonder for adventure, along with a touch of over zealous national pride (think cold war and its residue). The modern day space race seems more an invitation for the big money: capitalist ventures that, lets be frank, may not be so pure as finding answers to the biggest existential questions or real world problems we face.

Al Gore spent years endeavoring to get a satellite into space (DSCOVR) with detection equipment aboard that would help provide real, factual data on global climate issues and warnings that could impact everyone. George W Bush killed the idea and at one point they were going to send up the satellite anyway for commercial benefits only replacing valuable climate data gathering equipment with weighted sandbags rather than leave the devices on there! What?! (The space games politicians play seem far more deadly than space invaders or galaxians.)

These days it seems we definitely hear more about the space race from private players. Yet I don’t even find that so inspiring. You know, billionaires wanting to have the ultimate joy ride in the experience economy we find ourselves in. And whilst I’m in awe of Elon Musks vision, his reasoning for wishing to populate Mars hardly ignites my soul either: that another dark age is inevitable, most likely as a result of a 3rdworld war. If that’s the case, surely the thing we need to invest our efforts in is human behavior and truly global, sustainable, collaborative ventures and relations. If we can’t get things down pat on this planet Elon, we’ll invariably screw the other ones up to. (I’m sure there are others out there with better reasoning for Mars and beyond but I just don’t hear about them)

When I think about space, the space race or the legacy of the moon landing, I find myself thinking the bit in the middle is what is truly fascinating. What do I mean by that:

Well, there’s outer space: visionary advancement that opens both the heavens and existential innovation doors. Sure, not everything that pours out is perfect but we, as a species, have the potential to keep the best of the breakthroughs and put the rest on permanent ice as if lost in space itself.

We have inner space humanity: where we can choose to respect, nurture, invest in, love and support our fellow earthlings (of all race, gender, religion and predelictions of every kind)

Both of these are worthy, inspiring pursuits. It’s the bit left over, you know, middle space and the headspace of modern humanity that’s a little bland and rather uninspiring. A world where absorbed, self-absorbed even, absolute nonsense frequently fills the headlines and activities of day to day life. How many fit photos, selfies, food, fashion or cutesy dog eared filtered pictures on instagram does it take to ignite the same sense of stop in your tracks, lights firing up in the brain, mouth gaping awe, I wonder as man stepping onto the moon for the first time?

I’ll share a quick observation that comes from chapter 4 in my first book. ‘Ignite Your Potential’. The next time you’re feeling a little down on yourself, uninspired or mediocre, take stock of what you’re made of. According to Carl Sagan (and the musician Moby) ‘we are all made from stars!’

The carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other essential heavy elements that exist within you probably came from nebulae (clouds of swirling gases) and forged from the embers of supernova (dying stars).

I think if there’s a legacy one can wonder at from the moon landing 50 years on it may be a quote from Neil Armstrong. ‘I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine’.

Perhaps latch onto that and work on your own ‘inner space’ and ‘headspace’ which, bizarrely enough, quantum physics, entanglement and other strands of weird and wonderful science are suggesting some of the answers to those rather large existential questions may actually exist. But that mind boggling rabbit hole can keep for another time but meanwhile ponder their immediate answers a while…

Why I am here?
– we’re not sure yet but it’s safe to say it’s for a reason other than selfies.

Where did we come from?
– we’re still figuring that one out but we’re pretty sure we’ll get the answer before Google

What is this thing called life and living all about?
– Okay, we concede, perhaps use of emojis may play a very small part on this one.

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