However, something struck me today, when the conversation in a meeting turned to a certain juvenille warlock. One of the engineers present, a dejected looking steatopygous sort in its late 20s or early 30s, said "Don't plan on getting any sleep tonight. Be in line waiting to buy the new H___ P___. Reserved mine."
Now, in some circles, it's fashionable to besmirch the good name of the bespectacled little git-wizard (to borrow a delightful phrase). And I've both thought and agreed with others in the past that there's something slightly odd about people who are purportedly adults, self-consciously holding up their copies of the latest adventure on the train or the bus or in the cafe and trying to look unselfconscious about it. It is, I would assert, far easier to look unassumingly intellectual caught reading a book by Gore Vidal or Henry Miller or Richard Dawkins (to name but three at random). Nevertheless, I wondered: is it possible that these are well-informed citizens, who just happen to have been caught up in the story? Were they otherwise intellectually bright and shiny and active?
Now I grant you, right out of the box, that the sort of mind which would be aware of the anniversary of the first time a human being put foot on another world, even one so close and familiar as the moon, is probably uncommon. Thirty-eight years later, yes, it's an unfair question. I know that. This post might even qualify as a straw-man arguement, or a self-indulgent and self-fulfilling prophecy, but I still find it interesting. The excitement engendered by the Apollo era is not what it was, and I can understand that. The trivialisation of space travel has been the death of manned space flight - instead of making it seem to be a grand adventure, it has become something more of a seemingly extravagant expense. The idea of useful research being done on a ramshackle construction like the ISS is slightly risible (although we can hope that much good comes of it), and practically light-years away from the elegant wheel projected in "2001" - how optimistic we were, then! And how quickly optimism dies: how quickly the deeds of the past are forgotten for the transient pleasures of a regression to childhood and some mediocre prose.
So no, I won't be queuing tonight. P___-mania will not take me, although, as I've said, I'll read the book eventually, if for no other reason than to look for editing and grammar mistakes (because, let's face it, I'm clearly a killjoy). But instead, tonight I will be outside, pointing a telescope at the distant face of the moon and thinking of what was... and what might have been.