Neil Armstrong, first man to walk (and take a photograph) on the Moon, died August 25th at the age of eighty-two. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin turned a primordial fantasy into reality, and what we knew was possible changed in the space of a television broadcast. On Universe, Claire L. Evans honors the human spirit as explorer of the solar system, writing “Going to the moon has a tendency to turn test pilots into poets.” Now, with machines like Curiosity in the vanguard, we will have to wait a while for true Martian poetry. On Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel says that Armstrong’s last act on the moon was to leave a “small package filled with items memorializing previously deceased pioneers in space exploration.” May his memory outlast the footprints he left on a windless world.
On Dynamics of Cats, Steinn SigurÃ°sson flags a few foreboding articles on the future of NASA. SigurÃ°sson says the orbiting telescope Galex, or Galaxy Evolution Explorer, will be shut down later this year despite continuing to function. NASA has withdrawn from the international research mission known as ExoMars, and many other “2011-12 programs appear effectively suspended pending the 2012-13 budget, to the point where an entire funding cycle will be lost for some lines.” Meanwhile, Ethan Siegel conjures up an apt scenario on Starts With a Bang, writing “Let’s pretend that, for all of our history on Earth, we had never once bothered to look up with any instruments beyond what our own eyes could offer. […] What would we find, today, if we turned our attention upwards for the first time ever?” From neighboring planets to the stars to extended nebulae and distant galaxies, our existing technology would allow us to peer deeper and deeper into the universe and quickly arrive at a conclusion that historically took centuries: the Big Bang theory. Of course, we’ve employed every technological advance every step of the way. There’s something innately human about keeping an eye on the stars. And although old habits die hard, they also run out of money.