If you have been even slightly informed by the media in the last week, you surely must have noticed that the scientific community, particularly that of the aeronautics branch, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. 50 years ago on 16 July 1969, the famous quote by Neil Armstrong came to life. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The moon had received its first human footprint. Pretty cool isn’t it? Now this next piece of information may come as a shock if you’re not really into space; I was myself amused when I first found out about it. Only 12 people in the whole history have actually stepped on the moon. This list from Wikipedia confirms it. Another point to note is that they are all American citizens. That does sound a little weird, right? In the last 50 years, only 12 people from one country have actually been to the moon.
In the shortest history lesson on space possible,
1) 1951 Soviets sent the world’s first orbiting satellite, the Sputnik 1, into space.
2) USA did not want to lose, so they established NASA.
3) More money from both USA and USSR are being funded into space stuff.
4) 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
5) Ok USA won. That’s it folks, goodbye.
Note: No other countries actually bothered to increase their space technology budget remotely close to what the belligerents of the Cold War was.
In the words of Tim Urban from Wait but Why in his comment about Elon Musk’s SpaceX project, the Space Race, as it was called, was essentially a “penis-length contest.”
Isolating these sequence of events made me think, it seems very much like USA and USSR were basically trying to one-upping each other in everything, and in this case space technology. I think no one would contest this observation. But a critical observation I made is when no country sent people to the moon anymore. Drawing loose parallels to my own life, I realise that in the past I have indeed completed tasks for the sake of one-upping the guy next to me. I am rather quite competitive, I do not deny that. But after these mini competitions are over, what next?
If you had asked me this question 2 years prior, I probably would have answered along the lines of “I got an endorphin and dopamine boost wiping that guy out.” Thankfully, my early 20s have some lessons to show for themselves. From now onward I borrow 2 overlapping concepts from author and organisational consultant Simon Sinek from his books Start with Why and The Infinite Game.
In Start with Why, Simon explains that why you do things is much more important than what you do. Because the purpose of you doing those tasks will outlast any dopamine boost from successfully executing those tasks with distinction. In Infinite Game, he explains that the ability to look beyond current short term goals and arbitrary time frames is what rallies people to work towards those goals and accomplish them. A quote you often hear that is relevant but I feel does not capture the entire essence of the idea is “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” Combining these two concepts into one, the takeaway is that “having a purpose in whatever you do will sustain whatever you do and will help you get people to help you in whatever purpose you are trying to realise.” Gosh, that was a mouthful.
Now his books are geared towards organisations, and that is fair enough considering his primary job as an organisational consultant. But I do not think it is too far-fetched to apply this concept on a personal level. Linking back to the takeaway from the Space Race, I would very much like for my life to be more than one-upping the next guy or only focusing on the task at hand. Not only is this mindset myopic, the perceived stakes will always be higher. The thought that the failure of any one task will be catastrophic for you because that has been your sole obsession. I have come to believe that life will be much better handled if you are aware of the whys in your life. The reasons and purposes as to why you do things in your everyday life will change the way you do things for the better. It definitely is no easy task finding out that purpose(s). I admit that I did grapple with this task for quite an extended length of time.
In one word, my own purpose as I have come to believe, is to be professional and to inspire people to reach their natural best. Of course, this is a simplified version of my vision statement for my own life. But hey, if you’re wondering, it lies somewhere along that line. The actual one might sound too convoluted if I were to just state it and it is a little too personal for me to share it online.
Now I should add a major disclaimer. I am in no way discrediting the efforts to put men on the moon. I am a fan of science and it would be foolish to ignore the benefits the Space Race has contributed towards space technology and the making possible of many of our current comforts such as GPS and the internet. Ok actually I am not exactly sure how parallel rocket and radio technology run but they should have some overlaps. Space exploration has always been fascinating. I remember when I was young and was reading and watching Tintin on the Moon, that was when I thought, “Damn, that is pretty cool.”
As I like to do in my blog posts, I extrapolate issues I observe and conceptualise them in a certain frame of mind and somewhat arrive at a conclusion, as I have for this one. The history of space exploration is no doubt interesting and progress has been out of this world. Some resources I came across while thinking about this post include:
- This video outlining major events in space exploration
- This video explaining what the US Space Force actually is. Spoiler alert: The enemy is not aliens. It is actually very informative and political, as with most international relations
- This article on Adriano Olivetti, an Italian industrialist in the typewriter business who aimed to make his production line more humane for the workers, concepts rather foreign for that age but his vision and values was revolutionary.