To the youth of today, the passing of Neil Armstrong may well earn the comment ‘Neil who?’ but for the older generations, his death, aged 82, from complications following a heart operation, marks the end of an era that some believe will never be repeated.
Neil Armstrong was the ultimate traveller, his was not a hire car or a camper van but instead, Apollo 11, one of the most famous space rockets and his claim to fame was that he was the first man to walk on the moon. Almost everyone who was amongst the 500m people watching him step from the Eagle space lander will remember the words ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’, but have his words been in vain? The spiralling cost of space travel has seen lunar missions postponed indefinitely and the thought of even putting another human into space, fades into the distant future, but all is not lost.
We have Curiosity wandering around the surface of Mars; we have the Virgin Galactic space plane less than a year from its first true commercial flight and talks of a space elevator to take us to the moon.
Dreams of space elevators, lunar mining and moon hotels open the mind to further space possibilities including possibly Rhino’s first moon car hire depot although we’re not sure on prices or models yet!
At the moment, only the very rich and famous can afford the six figure fare for Virgin Galactic although one of the latest to sign up for a trip as a Russian cosmonaut space tourist is the singer and actress Sarah Brightman.
Neil Armstrong was definitely a hero; no one really knew what was going to happen the moment he opened Eagle’s doors and stepped down onto the moon’s surface but he went ahead and did it and amidst the fear and possible relief that he was still alive moments after opening the door, he managed to utter those famous words.
One day flights into space and to the moon may be commonplace and within the reach of ordinary pockets but for now the rest of us will have to make do with dreaming of that holiday to the moon and press on through the holiday traffic jams in our hire cars.
We should never lose sight of that first ‘space tourist’ though and perhaps we should do as Armstrong’s family suggest and each time we look up at the moon, think of Neil and give him a wink.