Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall more or less marks the high water mark of the Roman Empire in Britain. It was built to defend the frontier of the Roman controlled portion of the island. Another, lesser known wall was later built further north. That one, the Antonine Wall, was built, but proved indefensible. The Romans, unable to hold the northern territory, fell back to Hadrian’s Wall and it became the border until Rome finally retreated from Britain. The wall today is a reminder of the limit of the reach of power. Rome was in some ways already in decline when the decision was made to push no further, to stop and literally build a wall.

I thought of that history today, when I read of Pr. Obama’s decision to kill the Constellation program. We aren’t going back to the moon. We aren’t going to build a next-gen heavy lift rocket or a new lunar lander. We’re pulling back. We left our high water mark behind in 1972 with the last Apollo mission. Perhaps someone will one day return to the moon, but it will not be us, and it will not happen in my lifetime.

Sic transit gloria mundi (Thus passes the glory of the world)
–From the old Papal Coronation Ceremony


6 thoughts on “Hadrian’s Wall

  1. And all the advances in science and technology learned from the attempt to go back to the moon will accrue to another nation.

    We will be poorer in many ways for this decision.

    Immigration is starting to sound like a great idea.

  2. I once compared the Space Race to the Chinese treasure fleets of the fifteenth centuries. Unlike the Europeans who were chasing filthy lucre, the Chinese were after glory and adventure. Then money got tight, attention shifted to other projects, and the fleets were gone as if they had never been.

    The Europeans colonized a New World.

    Obama made the right decision. There's no New World, at least none that can be colonized by the NASA treasure fleet.

  3. I don't know if going to the moon is a good or bad thing. In fact, the actual task is not what is in question. It is the fact that we have reached the limit of our capability as a society, culture, or country. The inability to take on a task of this magnitude is just a symptom. I believe that was the point of this post.

  4. And yet I think it just opens the door for private industry to reach back out to the moon. Assuming, of course, that there is a private industry, but I hope you get my point. NASA may not be headed back, but someone will get there.

  5. Borepatch,

    I agree completely, it is just like the Chinese treasure fleets(which I had to go look up). If anything, I think the example of the treasure fleets reinforces my point. It's not whether we should go back to the moon, it's that we have turned inward and decided not to. Just like the Chinese. Thereby leaving the moon, Mars, and whatever lies beyond, to whomever plays the role of the Europeans.

  6. Whoever does go to the moon will find footprints, assorted space junk and flags with stars and stripes and wonder who in hell we were and how in hell we got there.

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