Saturday, August 25, 2012

Farewell to the First Man on the Moon

It's not been a good time for the American space program. A few weeks ago Sally Ride lost her battle with cancer, far too young. And today the news comes through that Neil Armstrong is no more, his passing the result of complications of heart surgery that he'd seemed to have come through well enough.

A year ago at this time my husband was reading Jerry Oltion's Abandon in Place, which starts with the astronaut protagonist coming back to Kennedy Space Center after Armstrong's funeral. My husband was a little puzzled, and asked me whether Neil had indeed passed away, and I answered that so far as I knew he was alive and well, in good health for a man in his 80's. So that novel's now definitely alternate history, since Neil has outlived the Space Shuttle program.

And now Neil Armstrong's gone. It's almost like he died of a broken heart, watching the American space program fall to pieces. In Robert A Heinlein's Future History, American space exploration was halted by a tyrant, the theocrat Scudder. In the Primary World it was not any grand decree, but endless penny-pinching and insisting on small plans that lacked the power to stir people's souls.

Farewell, Neil Armstrong. I wish our nation had served your legacy better, and not let it dribble away to nothing.