Monday 27th August
In 1969 I was just eighteen and a hippie, a rebel and had already run away to London, but I can still remember being glued to a tiny secondhand black and white tv set as over and over again they showed Neil Armstrong taking those first giant steps on the moon. And now he is dead, but long before he died the space race died too. America ran out of money and Russia just ran out. There is also no excitement or appetite for space in the youth of today; the rover ‘Curiosity’ is exploring Mars, a whole planet away and it hardly causes an eyebrow to be raised. The achievements of those astronauts are all the remarkable when one realises that there is more technology in a mobile phone of today than there was in an Apollo spacecraft. They were incredibly brave, as there was more than a possibility that they would die in the attempt.
Billy Bragg wrote a song a few years ago called ‘The Space Race is Over’, where he is trying to explain to his son what it was all about. His son asks why they went all that way just to come back, and Billy sings ‘Don’t give me a place out in cyber space, cause where in the hell is that.’
So we are now in a new generation gap, where those heroes and achievements mean absolutely nothing to anyone under forty, who are more excited by the latest i-phone than travelling to another planet or moon. Strange but true.