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"Time just stopped for me, I think it stopped for everybody," a 51-year-old Clarke said, describing how it felt to watch the lunar module touch down. "My heart stopped. My breathing stopped."
Cronkite was equally taken aback by what he was witnessing: "I can’t imagine a moment to equal this. The only thing I could imagine is some fellow came forward and could say positively that we were not going to have any more war."
Both Clarke and Heinlein then suggest that such an event might make problems back on Earth seem more trivial and bring the world closer together. While it may not usher in world peace, certainly, it would forever change the planet—and humanity—the authors agreed. Heinlein, then 62, whose novel the Moon is a Harsh Mistress had been published just three years earlier, was especially effusive.
"I think this whole business today has been thought of in too small of terms," he said. "This is the greatest event in all of the history of the human race up until this time. Today is New Year’s Day of Year One. If we don’t change the calendar, historians will do so." By landing on another world, Heinlein asserts, humankind has gone through puberty, confirmation, and a bat mitzvah all at once. "This is the biggest day the human race has ever seen," he adds, "the most important thing since the human race learned to talk."
The two science-fiction luminaries envisioned the Apollo landings as the beginning of human colonization of space. Clarke said he foresaw finding new ways of controlling gravity in space once humans were able to study it free of the constraints of Earth. "When we get into space we'll learn how to control it," he said.
Like Clarke, Heinlein envisioned the Moon landings as just the first step. "I think this is the most hopeful thing that has happened," he said. "I don’t know if we’re going to get rid of war… But I do know that your grandchildren, the descendants of all of us, will be in colonies elsewhere, the human race will not die even if we spoil this planet. It’s going to go on and on and on... We’re going to be at Proxima Centauri before you know it. "
With its low gravity, Heinlein envisioned the Moon as a place where humans could grow old in relative comfort. "Certainly before the end of the century we will have hospitals on the Moon for elderly people to enable them to live quite a lot longer because of their tired hearts under one-sixth gravity, and their fragile bones, and so forth," he said.
Today, some 47 years later, it's rather melancholy-inducing to watch great thinkers wax poetic about the future of humanity in space. Just five more human missions would land on the Moon, and then progress did, in fact, stop. There would be no colonies. No old folks' homes. No one would return to deep space again. Instead of controlling gravity, gravity still controls access to space, and it remains a costly, dangerous trip.
originally posted by: Baddogma
a reply to: OneBigMonkeyToo
Watching those two, am I alone in feeling that the best of America seems dead, now?
It just highlights what the moon landing was always about. Politics and propaganda.
originally posted by: OneBigMonkeyToo
Heinlein & Clarke dominated my father's bookshelf and were therefore my gateway to grown up reading, along with Harry Harrison. Read 'Rendezvous with Rama' many times, and wore the pages out of 'Stranger in a Strange Land'.
Here's a snippet of Ray Bradbury on the subject.
Interesting to contrast that with Kurt Vonnegut - I saw an interview with him but can't find the link and he was of the view that we would be better spending the money on Earth first.