While I have been blessed in my life to have met a former Beatle; three US Presidents; a British Prime Minister; a Nobel Prize winner; and two Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients; the greatest thrill for me occurred when I greeted Apollo II’s Buzz Aldrin in September 2010 when he spoke to our Middle School students for 45 riveting minutes. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo II moonwalk this week, how terrific that both Mike Collins and Buzz are still with us! As a lifelong space junkie, the original Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts have always been monumental heroes to me.
When Mr. Aldrin spoke to us nine years ago, he reminded us that NASA was a collective effort on more than 600,000 Americans. “Neil Armstrong and I were the ones who got credit,” he said, “but it was the ultimate ‘group effort’.” He then winked at the kids and laughed, “Remember, there’s no I in the word, team!”
In retrospect, when President John F. Kennedy committed our nation to go to the moon in 1961, the top tax rate in the United States was at 91 percent. When Apollo 11 landed eight years later, it was at 77 percent. Fifty years later, we “can’t afford to pay for anything.”
Um, yes, we can. Our current mission, if enough Americans accept the overwhelming evidence of science, is to curb climate change. Therefore, our next moon mission should be right here at home. We need to collectively solve global warming before we leave this fragile planet uninhabitable. We can do it. As JFK said so convincingly 58 years ago, “No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”
So let us begin.