Sunday, October 04, 2009
Take a look at this chart:
It's age distribution by year for the United States from 1950 to 2050. You can see at the top that the elderly population continues to grow whereas just after WWII there was a big bump as the baby boomers were born.
Now let's think about Apollo for a second. Apollo lasted until 1972. That means that we haven't been there for 37 years now, and extrapolating from that it means that anyone not 40 years or older will have no memory whatsoever of there ever being people on the Moon.
Those under 40 have no memory of being in a world where mankind has been capable of exploring the Moon in person. That's almost 60% of the population of the United States, and that's a country with an aging population. For the rest of the world this is much higher.
Fast forward to 2020 when we tentatively have plans to explore the Moon again. Then it will have been 48 years since we had explored the Moon, so those under 55 won't have a memory of the event. Now we're up to 75% of the population.
So the question is this: why have so many that have never had the experience of being in a world where we are capable of exploring the Moon let themselves be affected by the apathy of the older generation? Why are so many under 40 already jaded about something that they never even experienced in the first place? Does it make sense to treat this as "going back" to the Moon when only a small fraction of the world population will see it as such, in addition to the fact that we barely did anything on the surface in the first place?
The above was the uphill struggle many of us space advocates faced until the discovery of water on the Moon was announced. It's still too early to tell, but if enough realize the importance of this discovery it just might be able to throw a cog into this cycle of despair we seem to have locked ourselves into over the past few decades. Even just a few months ago on the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo mission to the Moon...the media coverage then was just one lament after another. Why can't we do now what we could before? Is it really worth going back? Can we really do it again? Where did our spirit of exploration go? I for one am extremely relieved that the lamenting of the past has been kneecapped by this recent discovery and now we can focus on the future again.