There are moments in history that are the “where were you when…” moments. Earth-shaking moments that write themselves into the human psyche. Sadly a lot of them are tragic moments – 9/11, Diana, Elvis, Senna. There are odd moments though that celebrate human achievement and the biggest of those was undoubtedly the moon landings in 1969.
I wasn’t around then (despite what some folks would have you believe) but I’ve seen the footage on numerous occasions and it gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.
Coupled with the NASA footage of Armstrong bouncing along the moon, are the black and white images of families huddled around their TV’s – kids on the floor, mum and dad sat arm in arm and grandma and grandad sat watching with wise eyes seeing what science and technology could deliver for good after seeing the destruction they brought in two world wars.
Over the past 10 years or so it’s felt like humanity has put the world into reverse with Concorde being grounded, the Shuttle being retired and plans for manned missions to Mars being scrapped. In fact it’s almost felt like we’ve settled on exploring the microscopic rather than pushing ourselves in ways that expand boundaries and take us to another level.
But there’s something about the human spirit that defies economic woes, that isn’t fulfilled by the minutia. Something within us that wants to see us going further, faster, higher or bigger. There’s that pioneer spirit that saw Columbus and Polo et al explore this wonderful planet we call home. There’s that conquering spirit that saw Everest and said “I can climb that” or sees the North Pole and says “I can walk there”. There’s the adrenaline fuelled mentality that see people strapped to rockets with wings, wheels or keels just to go faster than anyone has gone before.
It’s the human spirit.
It’s not always driven by logic (if ever) and it doesn’t always have a great benefit to humanity but without it we might easily still be sat in ignorance of the world around us, in fact we might well still be sat in caves doing nothing.
On October the 14th 2012 we witnessed another of those great moments as Felix Baumgartner floated up to 128,000 feet and the jumped from the edge of space to become the first human to break the sound barrier without any form of propulsion or vehicle.
In this instance there are genuine benefits to science, aeronautical safety and more but it still ultimately comes down to that innate human nature that wants to do it because no-one has done it before or to prove that we can push ourselves to beat previous endeavours.
What really cemented the moment as one of •those• moments was sharing it with my brother, sister, mum, dad and all of us. We started watching it on the laptop before switching it to the main TV and by the time the pre-jump checks were starting we had all gathered round the television with people sat on the floor, the sofa and each other. It was one of those moments when we collectively held our breath and where we all applauded as Felix walked back down onto land as if he’d simply jumped from the bottom step.