Friday, December 11, 2015

The final frontier

From '69, biggest news of the century!
And thus evolved the most productive cliche since a stitch in time saved nine ...


As Fairfield and the valley of the East Fork were closing down for the duration, new horizons were being opened, notably one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Something to that effect.

By the time the Apollo 11 team set the lander onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, nobody was left in Fairfield. If you were, we knew where you were and that you'd have to come out eventually.

Space travel got its first jolt of reality when the Soviets launched their Sputnik a little over a decade earlier.

What followed was an exciting, almost surreal series of events that proudly produced the first American space flight, a May 5, 1961, suborbital jaunt by Neil Armstrong that lasted about half an hour. Two weeks later, President Kennedy boldly challenged NASA to reach the moon by the end of the decade.

On Feb. 20, 1962, they interrupted a student assembly at Brookville High School to tell us that John Glenn had gone around the planet three whole times. Maybe that was WHY we had the student assembly. Either way, it was a big deal.

As the years went on, the Soviets and the Americans took turns being the first at something almost every six months until 1966 when the U.S. landed an unmanned Surveyor craft on the lunar surface.

We were on our way to space.

Until Jan. 27, 1967 when astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were killed in a fire in a command module on the launch pad. The tragedy was a setback but not a deterrent to the space program, one fueled by intense patriotism and concern that the Soviets were indeed beating us to the punch.

NASA regrouped as the Soviets sent unmanned vessels into the atmosphere of Venus, and bounced a few duds off the Moon, finally getting one out there and bringing it back.

America went the Soviets one better in 1968 by actually sending a real team of astronauts around the Moon and back home in the Apollo 8 mission.

Then came those grainy images and the first words ever spoken by a human from another world: "Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed."

A few more trips (and a harrowing Apollo 13 rescue) to the Moon occurred before the lunar program was shut down in 1972. NASA turned its attention to more robust ventures, many of which were years in development. Some of the places we sent spaceships are really-really-really far away. Some of those spaceships still haven't reached their destination.

All that and the Space Shuttle, which suffered its own disarray and tragedy but generally produced some of the most important Earth-bound space research possible.

The shuttle program is defunct but the international space station is alive and thriving.

We're on the verge of locating a planet that can sustain life as we recognize it.

Science has studied fly-by comets and has taken a look at galaxies that are so far away, their light spent more than 13 billion years reaching us.

We have pictures of Pluto.

So why can't we open the bag inside a cereal box?



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