Let’s celebrate Apollo 11, but also find a way to launch new adventures

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch was Tuesday, the landing Saturday (June 20).

Those who witnessed the events might wax nostalgic for a day when Americans came together to support a swashbuckling adventure among the stars.

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Today, many look back on the moon landing as the greatest single human accomplishment of the 20th century.

It really was a remarkable feat. A journey from the Earth to the moon eight years after a brash young president dared the nation to just try it.

The weeks leading up to this 50th anniversary have been justifiably packed with stories about the challenge, the excitement and the hundreds of thousands of people who made it happen.

We’ll definitely enjoy the celebration of memory along with everyone else. But we’ll also wonder — what’s next?

Mars? What a ride that would be.

What about here on Earth?

Unlike John F. Kennedy, political leaders today speak largely about problems to be solved, not adventures to be launched.

They’re right, of course. We need to remedy a health care system that works for some but not others; a system of justice that treats Americans differently; an immigration system that doesn’t make sense; an economy where you can work but still be unable to afford a home; a growing national debt that could cripple future generations.

But some problem-solving here on Earth comes closer to feeling Apollo-like.

President Donald Trump and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden say they want to cure cancer. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, introduced us to a Green New Deal that — while a laughable overreach in some respects — has aspirational elements that deserve serious discussion.

Seth Moulton — Marine, Iraq War veteran, Harvard physics graduate, Massachusetts congressman and obscure Democratic presidential candidate — wants to invest a few billion bucks and solve the riddle of large-scale nuclear fusion.

Now there’s an exciting, earthbound adventure. Fusion is a process where atoms are combined to generate energy. It’s what powers the sun.

Fusion is much safer than fission, the atom-splitting process used to generate nuclear power and create nuclear bombs.

The fuel for fusion reaction is abundant and cheap. The amount of nuclear waste is miniscule. Nuclear material is radioactive but for a much shorter period of time. There’s no chain reaction and the risk of a nuclear meltdown is zero.

But try to imagine if a fusion power challenge was issued to the nation in 2019 by a president resembling Kennedy:

Right-wing Twitter (if the president were a Democrat): “Typical government make-work program from a spoiled man-child and professional politician who never had to make a payroll. #SaveCoal”

Left-wing Twitter (If the president were a Republican): “Outrageous boondoggle! Spending billions to enrich fat-cat power companies that contributed to his campaign. #FundHealthCareNow”

There’s the problem.

We just want to fuss with each other, troll each other.

If we’re going to go on any more adventures together — on this planet or away from it — we’re going to have to come together.

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The alternative is a future where this country looks back 50 years from now and finds we have nothing to celebrate.

— Orlando Sentinel

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