Mankind is overdue for another grand gesture.
Thus, on this anniversary of Apollo 11, consider 11 numbers that speak to what was accomplished 50 years ago and why Mars is in reach.
Start with the fact that over 500 million people, 15% of humanity, watched the moon landing live on TV on January 20, 1969.
That “one small step” took place just 2,503 days after President Kennedy set the vision in his “within this decade” speech. That was a time arguably more fractious and divisive than we face today: the economy was in a shambles and America was embroiled in a debilitating war in Southeast Asia, the culture was in turmoil with violent college protests and race riots were rampant. But we still went to the moon.
Everything about space travel begins with conquering energy challenges. The distances involved require astronomical speeds and our planet’s mass exerts a nearly inescapable gravitational force. Each pound of Apollo astronaut required 10,000 pounds of fuel to escape Earth’s gravity. (Getting to the space station and low earth orbit leaves you still deep in the gravity well.)
Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, and author of the recent report, “The ‘New Energy Economy’: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.” Follow him on Twitter here.
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