I enjoyed all of the Apollo 11 retrospectives this weekend, marking the 45th anniversary of man landing on the moon. But what is a bit depressing is that my generation of Americans is NEVER going to do something that impressive or that important.
Neil Armstrong was 38 when he walked on the moon. Buzz Aldrin was 39. The average age of the engineers that designed and made all of the systems on-board the spacecraft work was 28. These were young men who accomplished the greatest technical feat in human history--less than 70-years after the Wright Brothers got the first airplane off the ground.
I'm 41 and I have to wonder what is the greatest thing people around my age--once known as "Generation X"--have done? The Space Shuttle was a Baby Boomer accomplishment. The same for the internet, the Hubble Telescope, smartphones, laptop computers and mp3 players. Facebook and Twitter and most other social media platforms that revolutionized inter-personal communications were actually developed by people younger than us.
Mine was supposed to be the generation that put a man on Mars (and returned him safely to the Earth)--but that funding was cut in the 1970's because the Baby Boomers weren't interested in space travel anymore. So we ended up making rovers to check out the Red Planet--but is that really as landmark an achievement as actually walking around out there?
I'm told my generation is accomplishing "far more important things" than exploring the solar system. Mine will be the generation that reverses the 12-thousand year pattern of increasing global temperatures. Mine will be the generation that finds the source of energy that never runs out and doesn't pollute. And mine is the generation that made sure employers had to provide free birth control pills to women. Why do I doubt I will live to see the 45-year anniversary specials for any of those "accomplishments".
About the best I can come up with is that my generation saved rock and roll by bringing grunge and alternative into the mainstream back in the 1990's--and slaying the talentless "hair metal" bands of the 1980's. Of course, Poison and Motley Crue are still touring and making money--while Nirvana is no more--so I guess we kind of failed on that front too.