Missed Moonshots Among the Stars

We choose to go to the Moon! […] We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy, September 12th, 1962

There’s dreams abound. Excitement is in the air. People exude confidence. They take to the stage, one by one. All of them are here for a reason. They’re all driven by the same passion that fueled their predecessors before them. They all dream about another world. Another celestial body altogether. They’re here to reach the moon.

Some bring with them traditional methods with slight modifications that improves on a dated design. Some bring with them ridiculous contraptions dreamt up in the garage of some suburban home of California by teenagers fresh out of high school. Some don’t have a plan; they only have ambition. And still, others believe they can bring science fiction to reality. Some of these ideas are really just science fiction. There are even children here who think they can shoot someone to the moon on a giant slingshot.

They all know the quote of John F. Kennedy’s famed Rice University address from 1962. That the moon is, perhaps impossible to reach. In the decades following the Apollo missions, it’s been neigh impossible to emulate its success. But these people — these talented individuals from all walks of life — think they have what it takes to emulate, perhaps even surpass, the successes humanity has had since its heydays.

They claim it’s ambition. Others claim it’s science. And still others claim it’s experience. Their claims are various, but it’s all in the pursuit of claiming one point — that they can reach the moon while others can’t.

Statistically speaking, most of these people will fail. Statistically speaking, one of them will succeed. Statistically speaking. These people are well aware of the statistics. But they’re disinterested. They believe, nay, they know they’re ahead of the curve. They know they’re the 1 in a million that will succeed.

Ironic. That’s not how statistics work.

And yet, these people all have a sense of confidence, assurance, and drive that all spell success. 5 years from now, however, all but one will see themselves missing their targets. Only one will accomplish the mission they had sought out to do. All the others will land in the vast emptiness of space, hurling towards another celestial body that’s not the moon — one that’s getting away faster than they can run. Most will not even last that long.

The weakest of these competitors will begin to weed themselves out starting in the first calendar year. Most will be set on the tragic trajectory by year 2. And, with every passing day, more and more will follow in this path, until one makes it. It’s even possible that none make it to the moon. It’s possible that the Apollo missions were humanity’s greatest achievements that were never meant to be emulated again.

But does this mean all but one should go home? Does this mean all these efforts have been for naught?

Maybe it’s human nature to sought after goals that are impossible. Perhaps it’s human nature to be far more confident in our abilities than objectively implied. Perhaps. But, perhaps it’s human fate to miss the moon over and over again. And in those futile attempts to reach the moon, perhaps we’ve realized our real mission — one set for us by one greater than our very existence. Perhaps, it was our destiny to land among the stars; to make an engraving in the universe; to make our mark on this vast emptiness such that some day, long after the earth has been consumed by an expanding sun, long after the sun’s light has faded, some passing voyager come across our relics and imagine.

Perhaps, it’s our destiny to fuel the dreams of those yet to come.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

– Norman Vincent Peale

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