Issue 1, 19 July 2005 -- 36th Apollo Anniversary Year

=============== AE ===============

Astronautical Evolution -- One small step closer to reality

Humans have a "moral imperative" to open up the new frontier of space, said X-Prize mastermind Peter Diamandis last week, addressing the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Oxford, being held in Europe for the first time.

TED Global brings together big names in science, technology, entertainment and design to discuss how to make a better future for all. (So it should really be: STED.) It is a high-octane movement towards a renewed faith in the much battered concept of human progress.

BBC reports on the meeting can be found on their science and technology pages.

Peter Diamandis "believes that within the next decade humans will find ubiquitous life on Mars and, in our lifetime, millions of people will be going into space":


Sir Martin Rees and Dr Craig Venter's comments:


TED Global website is at:


-- Stephen Ashworth

=============== AE ===============

One small step ...

Jerry Stone recently reminded me of the popular opinion that Neil Armstrong somehow fluffed his lines in his first words standing on the lunar surface, by omitting an indefinite article: "That's one small step for [a] man, ...".

Clearly, the motivation behind this kind of fault-finding is to denigrate the whole enterprise of the Moon landing. (I suspect that this is also what motivates those people who claim the Apollo Moon landings never actually happened.)

I am playing in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in some Oxfordshire gardens this summer, and this has made me aware of how our greatest English poet was never averse to eliding words to fit the metre. So for example I have the line (appropriately enough): "Myself the man i'th' moon do seem to be" (my character, Robin Starveling, plays Moonshine in a play within act V of the main play).

Nobody criticises Shakespeare for messing up the line by not writing out "in the" in full. It is abbreviated to "ith" in order to fit the iambic pentameter of the verse (five metrical feet of a weak beat and a strong beat each). (This is of course fairly common in Shakespeare.)

Now what did Neil Armstrong say? Clearly his words, as spoken on the Moon, fit two half-lines of three iambic feet each:

That's one small step f'a man,
One giant leap for mankind.

He unconsciously elided "for a" to "f'a", as Shakespeare might well have done, in order to fit the poetry. (He also pronounced "giant" as one syllable -- the first time I heard it, I thought he'd said "vast").

Let's hear no more of this nonsense about him making a mistake!

-- S.A.

=============== AE ===============

Sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings

This August marks the sixtieth anniversary of the destruction of the Japanese cities Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August) by the first operational uranium and plutonium bombs. There were something like a quarter of a million Japanese casualties.

It hardly seems the occasion to point out the immense creative power of nuclear technology -- yet it ought to be.

The discoveries of extra-solar planetary systems are beginning to create awareness of the vastness of the open frontier that surrounds us. But to access even the closest of these systems -- at tens to hundreds of trillions of km away -- demands either nuclear technology, or some technology even more powerful, and hence even more destructive if used as a weapon of war.

No progress, it seems, is bought without pain. The one comment which should dignify this grim anniversary is this:

If humanity continues to strive towards its creative potential, however haltingly, however confusedly, then one day, for every single Japanese victim of those first atomic bombs, there will be a whole planetary system of barren rock, metal and ice, gas and dust, which is brought to life, consciousness and wonder by peaceful use of that same nuclear technology.

-- S.A.

=============== AE ===============

To Space Age home page