The Only Home We Have: What Apollo 11 Really Teaches Us

Earthrise viewed from lunar orbit prior to Apollo 11 landing (Photo by NASA)

People sometimes forget how influential the Apollo program really was.

Neil Armstrong’s one small step was a watershed moment in American history, the fulfillment of a seven-year-old pledge from a departed president. Everybody remembers that, but those voyages also helped jump-start the environmentalism movement.

When astronauts started leaving the planet, they captured humanity’s first images of Earth from outer space. The iconic Earthrise photo taken from lunar orbit during the Apollo 8 mission is regarded as one of the most influential images of all time.

“Those famous Apollo 8 views really gave people a new awareness of how we better take care of this planet because there’s nowhere else to go,” Cradle of Aviation Museum curator Josh Stoff said. “This little blue Earth hanging against the blackness of space, people for the first time really saw how fragile and alone the Earth is.”

Five decades later, the Moon is as pristine as ever. But it’s a different story entirely with our own blue marble.

The highest temperature the ever measured on Long Island was 104 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded on July 4, 1966. This Saturday, the 50-year anniversary of the day mankind put its first footprint on the Moon, the heat index for certain parts of the island is predicted to hit 112.

Planetwide, last month was the hottest June in history. Every June this decade ranks among the 10 hottest ever recorded. Each of the last three decades have been the hottest ever.

Since 1850, the average global temperature has risen by a little more than one degree Celsius. Add just one degree onto the current number by 2100, which scientists accept as a virtual certainty, and our baking planet starts to extract a painful toll from the Long Islanders living during that time.

Sea levels rise two meters. Oyster Bay loses its harbor, Fire Island is completely swallowed. Globally, hundreds of millions of people are exposed to water scarcity from droughts. The world’s economy loses more than a tenth of its per-capita value.

Remember, that’s the optimistic prediction, the one we get if we immediately and severely cut back on carbon emissions worldwide. Without that kind of concerted effort, the forecasts border on apocalyptic.

So when you see that grainy footage of Armstrong and Aldrin hopping off the Lunar Module ladder, try to look at it from a different perspective. They made history wearing cumbersome spacesuits that weighed 180 pounds back on Earth. Without that clunky mass of material, and the supplies they brought with them, they would have never made it off the inhospitable lunar surface. Without resources we can only find on this planet, that satellite would be Hell.

This planet is the only place we know of that can support human life. If we don’t take care to maintain it, there may come a day when it can’t.

Read more from LIW‘s theme issue on early space travel and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Mike Adams
Mike Adams is the editor of the Great Neck Record and The Roslyn News.

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