Thursday, July 16, 2009

One small step, forty years later.


Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the Moon. NASA has a special website commemorating the anniversary, which has also begun to attract considerable media attention in the form of "where were you when..." items, updates on the Apollo 11 astronauts and editorial analyses of the present and future status of human space exploration.

Among the various Apollo 11 anniversary items that have caught my eye this week was a short post on the Boston Globe website discussing Apollo Through the Eyes of the Astronauts, a book of photographs taken by NASA astronauts during the six lunar landings made between 1969 and 1972. Used to illustrate the Globe post about the book, the above photograph was taken by Lunar Module Pilot Charles M. Duke, Jr. during the Apollo 16 moon landing in April 1972; the item in the center of the image is a snapshot of Duke's family, though at first glance I almost mistook it for a holy card.

More than any editorial analysis, the above image of an intimate human keepsake on the lunar surface offers a profound commentary on the "giant leap for mankind" that we celebrate this week. The Apollo 11 moon mission might be regarded as a product of the eternal human longing to expand the frontiers of knowledge, grasping that which once seemed beyond our reach and coming to know that which once seemed mysterious to us. An integral part of this quest for knowledge has been the desire to leave some human imprint on that which we find, as the Apollo astronauts very literally when they walked on the surface of the Moon.

With our creative drive and thirst for knowledge, we human beings possess a remarkable ability to leave a mark not simply on the world (and the cosmos) that we inhabit. Given all that we can do, we can easily be tempted to see ourselves as masters of creation and not merely as responsible stewards. As we celebrate the great achievements of the Apollo space program, I pray that we may also humbly acknowledge the limits and responsibilities that come along with the great abilities that we possess. AMDG.

1 Comments:

At 7/23/2009 1:38 AM, Blogger David said...

I also thought it was a holy card at first. We've clearly had good Catholic upbringings!

 

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