Ten Numbers About Our Past And Future In Space

0.5: From inception to landing the first two men on the moon on July 20, 1969, through putting 10 more there in the following three years, the entire Apollo program cost less than 0.5% of the cumulative U.S. GDP.

1: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong set the first human foot on the moon, but Aldrin took the world’s first selfie in outer space.  Next?  Mankind takes one cosmic leap into interplanetary space, and sets foot on Mars, another planet, not just a lifeless moon.  Never venturing beyond the moon would be like 15th century explorers stopping at the Canary Islands and never sailing the Atlantic to the New World.

3: Even if the Mars mission were to cost three times as much as the Apollo program (the highest of many estimates), that would equal just 0.25% of today’s GDP over the decade needed for such a mission.

8: Just eight years passed from when President Kennedy delivered his epochal man-on-the-moon-within-the-decade speech on May 25, 1961, to when American engineers succeeded in putting Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon.

10: A rocket 10 times more powerful than those in use today would be needed to send humans to Mars, and return them safely.

20: A rocket 20 times more powerful than had ever been built by 1961 was needed to put a man on the moon.

30: Thirty dollars a month: One-tenth of the people that would watch a live 2024 Mars landing could finance a Mars mission if they pledged, through say crowd-funding, $30 per month for the mission’s decade.

500: Over 500 million people, 15% of humanity, watched the moon landing live on TV.  Given the ubiquity of video today, a far greater share would watch a Mars landing.

600: Mars is, on average, 600 times further away from Earth than is the moon, the furthest humans have journeyed.

2,000: The moon is 2,000 times further away than the furthest humans had journeyed into space in 1961. President Kennedy had both the vision and the faith that technology could meet the challenge.  Today’s technology is capable of far more, and a similarly bold vision.  As Apollo 8 and 13 astronaut Jim Lovell said:  “It’s not a miracle you know.  We just decided to go.”

When, eight days after the launch the Apollo 11 crew returned to Earth in the Pacific near Hawaii on July 24, 1969, the U.S. was still embroiled in a debilitating war in Southeast Asia, the economy was in a shambles, the culture was in turmoil: violent college protests and race riots were rampant across the nation, drug use was prevalent, and the sexual revolution was in full swing.  But we still went to the moon.

Forty five years ago Walter Cronkite, anchor and orator for a nation said, “The least of us is improved by the things done by the best of us.”

It’s time to unleash the best of us again.

This article appeared on the Forbes website at http://www.forbes.com/sites/markpmills/2014/07/22/apollo-11-eight-days-in-space-and-ten-numbers-about-our-past-and-future-in-space/

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