The Apollo program had a profound effect on a generation; witness the high-tech billionaires flocking into low Earth orbit today. But the lure of Apollo wasn’t all about space. It was about the future.
I believe that, in part because today we lack a robust public space program, Americans’ attitude toward the future has changed. The future has always been linked to our identity as a nation. We could always make things better, and whatever it took, we were going to do that work. But now that we have achieved beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors, the rate of acceleration seems to be slowing. We hear evidence of our decline all the time from our politicians. In systems theory, this is called a “drift to low performance.” We get used to a lower bar, and we work less to exceed it.
Of course, education is all about the future, by preparing young people. But, as Apollo proved, the best path to the future is a shining one, powered by inspiration. As the saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to create it.