The Moon and the Telescope

Having commented a few days ago on the shortcomings of the Washington Post article titled “22 good things that happened this year,” it would be irresponsible for me to leave this topic without noting that one of them was titled “We’re Going to the Moon Again,” which, by the way, is not something that happened this year, because it didn’t. Moreover, going to the moon is not what it once was, which is why we abandoned this practice some decades ago.

When, half a century ago, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, he said “One small step for {a} man, one giant leap for mankind.” It would be apt for the first astronaut to walk on the moon in this century to say, “One great leap for a man; one small step for mankind.”

What really was another great leap for mankind this year was the successful deployment of the Webb telescope, which is now in position a million miles from Earth and exceeding expectations in uncovering information about the universe and our galaxy that would otherwise have remained beyond our ken. The complexity and capability of the Webb telescope is stunning, as was the overcoming of the challenges to deploying it and rendering fully operational. Its scientific significance far exceeds whatever may be achieved by going to the moon again.