Ever since the image of the first man landing on the moon was taken, 47 years ago today, it is widely considered as the most iconic image of the human race.
The moon landing legacy that humans wish to maintain is of an astonishing scientific, technological and organizational achievement, an inspiring demonstration of mankind’s ability to leave its origin planet, travel to another body in the solar system and return safely.
What they consistently tend to omit are the motives behind the expedition, at what cost the achievement was gained, and mostly what could be achieved alternatively.
The purpose of the Apollo project wasn’t to beat gravity but the Russians. It was a political project, another arena of the imperialistic war between USA and USSR.
Its full cost can never be measured, only the price can, and it is estimated to be about $25 billion (in 2009 NASA looked back at the price of the Apollo program in its entirety, and arrived at a figure of around $200 billion in today’s money). Each one of the 25 billion could be more productive probably anywhere else.
The program also required the organized effort of a major fraction of society. At the peak of the Apollo program, about 420,000 people were employed in it, including 90,000 scientists and engineers, 20,000 industrial firms, and 100 universities. All wasting their time on a project which only polished the human races’ image.
Massive resources and systematic planning are not employed to abolish poverty and forced labor, provide health care, education, clean water and air for all, but to beat the enemy to the moon.
47 years after humanity had put a man on the moon and still millions of people suffer from preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, tetanus and malaria.
So what can be learned about humans from the moon landing project is that they rather invest billions of dollars and their best minds to precede their enemies in a stupid space race than solve major problems on earth.
But probably the worst thing about the moon land is not the money spent on this useless expedition, the waste of time and energy of many brilliant minds who could have devoted it for something much more useful, or reinforcing machoistic viewpoint by conquering other places with giant pricks, it is the false perception of superiority and greatness attached with such a technological achievement while forgetting other technological achievements which are much more characteristic of the human race. Humanity chooses the landing on the moon scene as its iconic image but other images are much more accurate. Please take a moment to view several of them.
The fact that Apollo 11 was a combination of many years of planning, working, building and testing, with thousands of people involved, is not something to be proud of when the goal itself is meaningless. There is nothing admirable in wasting about $25 billions of dollars (close to $200 billion in today’s dollars) and about half a million engineers, technicians and scientists who spend so much time and effort only to boost their country’s ego. But it is typical. So in that sense the image is iconic of this race. Using its comparative advantage for useless projects in the best case and harmful in the worst, is indeed iconic of the human race.