Following the moon landing in 1969, Donald A Wollheim’s anthology Men on th Moon was reissued, with some additional comments on the event by science fiction writers. Harry Harrison’s comments – see below – make interesting reading today, both in terms of how far we’ve come, and how far we haven’t…
Men on the Moon
Harry Harrison (1969)
This was the big one, the moment we had been waiting for all our lives. And, with the incredible technology manifest, it was even better than expected. Live TV coverage. The first step onto the surface seen in real time – or just a few seconds after it happened. This event has never happened before and will never happen again in the long history of mankind. What a pleasure to be alive at the moment it did.
A lot of nonsense has been spoken about the space program and its finances. In the first place there is no such thing as ‘absolute’ money. If the technologyand resources had not been spent on space research they would certainly not have been devoted to welfare or education or the many other vitally neededcauses. The monster that is consuming our economy – and even cutting into the finances of the space program – is the terrible waste in Vietnam. This destroys lives, morals and money and is slowly destroying our economy and our culture. If the money wasted there were spent on improvements at home we might very well have a paradise on Earth.
The space program may have been started for the meanest of motives – ‘we’ll beat you lousy Russkies to the Moon’ – and the first rockets were developed from war rockets. But everything has changed. There can’t be a race with only one entrant and the Soviets don’t seem to see space as a matter of racing. In fact now that we have reached the Moon there seems to be a good chance of mutual cooperation in future space programs. And the rockets now being used have no military application whatsoever. The war rockets have been designed and built and armed and could overkill the world if they were all fired. Perhaps the space program can provide a unity that will keep them on the ground.
Mankind needs to grow up or die. Seeing spaceship Earth from the Moon may help in the maturing, in the realization that it is one world. We must put away our tin soldiers, retire our generals, take guns from the hands of our citizenry and find a way to live together in peace. This must be done because the alternative is destruction.
Mankind is not just a predatory animal. We have been, and still are at times – but we can also go to the Moon. We need civilizing. The American people most of all. We cannot force our idea of what is ‘right’ on the world, killing and destroying people who disagree with us. We must examine ourselves and find a way to control our most vicious, drives rather than exercising them as a national policy.
That picture of the Earth with the Moon in the foreground should be in every classroom and home in the world. Plenty of clouds and water are visible, but very little land. No national boundaries are visible at all.
Isn’t that message clear enough?
First published in Men on the Moon, edited by Donald A. Wollheim, published by Ace Books, 1969