While I never had an opportunity to meet Armstrong, his influences on manned exploration more broadly, and my own work, runs deep. What I would like to communicate is that the ‘small step’ he took, was huge.
It represented even more than setting foot on a new world for the first time – it represented the culmination of work that got him there. I had a ‘moment’ like this on a recent expedition, where for the first time, I was honestly nervous. Not in a frightened way, but my instincts reminded me that I was operating somewhere entirely new, where expecting the unexpected is the only way to prepare.
When we explore, we spend months – even years – working with the best and brightest to design tools, calculate algorithms, draft plans and contingencies, and so on. When we reach the point where no more math can possibly lend itself to improving the exploration, the only thing left to do is go.
Armstrong, perhaps more than anyone in history, took a step when we all needed to be reminded that taking steps were still important – and they still are. Armstrong’s mission reminds us of that even after more than half a century.
So, as we press forward now – looking to new frontiers in spite of being paralyzed by bureaucracy, risk management, and the ‘L’ word (liability) – we have to appreciate that we are all human, and it is the inherent drive of humans to take small steps, and every now and again we just need to do it for all our benefit.