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What Neil Armstrong got wrong



50 years after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, it's hard not to conclude that he got things backwards. The moon landing was a huge leap for a man. Armstrong's life had changed – but afterwards it is only a small step for humanity.

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It's not that putting people on the moon was not a difficult collective performance – it was. But getting to the moon has done a bit in the long run to change the human society.

As Roger Launius, a prominent space historian, writes in his new book Apollo's Legacy "At a basic level, the President's Apollo decision was to the United States, what the will of the Pharaohs was to build the pyramids in Egypt. "The most resonant effect is not a particular technology, but merely the metaphor: If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we make X ?

The "X" are usually coming up in these discussions, such as finding out how to solve climate change or poverty, "has every opportunity to use technical solutions," Launius notes, "But they are largely political and social issues." And Apollo did not solve any political problems or social problems. Other "X" say, hardening cancer-depends on developing brand new forms of scientific knowledge.

On the other hand, the success of the Apollo program, which heavily employed 400,000 people, was based on sound engineering management of countless interdependent technical innovations, not on scientific revolutions. The Manhattan project – which employed 125,000 and cost about a quarter as much as Apollo in inflation-adjusted dollars – changed the world much more by introducing the atomic bomb. The was a great leap, but perhaps not in such a good direction.

What can be said about Apollo's impact on humanity is that the management of complex technical systems is required we have grown very, very well to. Modern aircraft and computers are incomprehensibly complex. And yet they work – not because of Apollo, but for the same reasons.

It is thanks to these kinds of systems that although humanity has not returned to the moon since 1972, there has been slow and steady progress in human spaceflight, remarkable robotic exploration of the solar system and, perhaps most importantly, in-depth transformation of life on earth using satellites orbiting it.

In order to get a sense of how extensive space activity has been, it helps to look at some statistics. Since 2000, the United States, Russia, China, India and Europe have successfully launched large 1,125 rockets and 39 times without success. It is an error rate of approx. 3.5%. Many, if not most of these errors have occurred in the first few launches of a new model, which means that the error rate of tested and tested rockets is even lower. In contrast, from the start of Sputnik in 1957 to July 1969, 20% of the launch failed.

When Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, 37 men and a woman from the US and the Soviet Union had converted the earth. Today, 495 men and 63 women from 40 countries. The shuttle was inexpediently a disaster: each flight cost $ 10 million, but ended up costing $ 1.6 billion. Fourteen people died when Columbia and Challenger were lost. And yet the pendulum transported far more people to the room than any other vehicle. The International Space Station (ISS) is also ridiculous over the originally promised budget for insignificant scientific return – but if human spaceflight becomes commonplace, the ISS data on how to keep people alive and sound in space for long periods of time will begin to see valuable.

Prior to July 20, 1969, the United States had sent two space probes flying by Venus on short visits, and one by Mars. The Soviet Union had successfully received data from three Venetian probes. No one had sent spacecraft through the asteroid band to the outer solar system, and the data from Mars and Venus offered only fragmentary glimpses.

Today, every planet in the solar system has been visited by space probes: Mars and Venus many times; Jupiter of a few orbiters; Mercury and saturn of an orbiter each; Uranus, Neptune and Pluto on short visits. There has also been a selection of missions for comets and asteroids.

In 1969, a single room telescope was successfully launched; Today, dozens of such instruments have examined the sky. In particular, the Kepler discovered the space telescope 2,343 planets outside the solar system over half of the 3,972 such exoplanets found to date. In 1969, no one knew if there were any exoplanets; Today we know they exceed stars, and also about how much of them are likely to be in the right size and distance from a star that could potentially end up in life.

On July 20, 1969, 116 satellites stood around the earth and did not count the moon or Apollo 11 . At the time of writing is over 2,100. But their importance has grown much more than their pure figure: No aspect of the 21st century life can be imagined without them.


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