Human Progress

In my lifetime, there’s been one human achievement which, in my opinion, stands out above all others, and that was the Apollo program to land a man on the moon in July 1969.

Some of the factors that made this possible were:

  • A respected, young and ambitious US President who set an audacious goal with a time limit: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth”. President John F Kennedy, May 25, 1961
  • Bipartisan support for the project from the US Government which authorised NASA to spend US$28 billion developing the rockets, spacecraft and ground systems needed for the Apollo program over the period from 1961 to 1972 (that’s $288 billion in today’s dollars)
  • An empowered, motivated and highly trained army of young engineers, technicians and scientists who worked for NASA. At its peak, the Apollo program employed 400,000 people and required the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities. Most of the critical and complex decision-making made at Mission Control during the moon landings were made by young senior engineers who were aged in their late 20s
  • Fearless and courageous leadership at all levels of NASA and the US Government, including global goodwill and support from all nations (with the possible exception of the USSR who initially triggered “the space race”)

I believe that a similar co-ordinated and bipartisan effort will be required to counter this global Covid 19 pandemic and, whereas the Apollo missions were funded by the US only, this time it will require the cooperation and collaboration of all nations. As a fast rising economic super-power, China will play an important role in resolving the crisis and fuelling the economic rebound that will (hopefully) follow.

In the spirit of Apollo, this is a time for the human race to demonstrate its considerable progress and advancement since 1969. It’s not the time, and in any case it’s far too early, for the kind of finger-pointing, emotional accusations, threats and bullying that we’ve seen in recent days. Let’s all rise to the challenge, put aside past differences, embrace diversity and start working together towards a higher purpose. If we can put a man on the moon, we can surely fix this?!

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