The future of space exploration needs to remember the past

The future of space exploration needs to remember the past

I read, with a certain amount of excitement,  about the recent contract awarded by NASA to SpaceX to help land the next generation of astronauts on the moon as part of the Artemis programme. We are going to back to the moon! And not before time either in my view. As a child of the moon landings I vividly remember the excitement generated by the original Apollo missions and it has always seemed crazy that what we could do 50 years ago, seems beyond us now. 


Of course my thoughts also immediately went to perhaps one of the most famous of all watches, the Omega Speedmaster Professional. The official manned space flight watch chosen by NASA in the 1960's after an exhausting and challenging search for a watch capable of withstanding the rigours of space exploration. I've told this story before but it's always worth repeating. Omega didn’t make the Speedmaster specifically for NASA, the original design from 1957 was adopted by the administration as a flight watch in 1965 and subsequently made it to the moon and back on every mission thereafter. For me it’s actually more impressive that Omega were able to deliver an existing timepiece for these missions. I can imagine NASA technicians giving a briefing of the technical requirements and challenges of space travel to the Omega executive who in turn, opened a display case and casually tossed the Speedmaster across the table with the words “That should do the job.” Nice thought but the reality from the perspective of Omega was probably more useful to their eventual marketing efforts in that the Speedmaster was the only watch from an original shortlist of 6 to withstand a barrage of tests which included low and high pressure and temperature extremes, shock,  acceleration,  humidity and vibration. (Eat your heart out COSC!)


I've no doubt these days NASA and SpaceX have an array of digital timepieces which can tell the time, check your pulse, clock the orbits and land the thing on the moon, but for me that would be missing a trick. It would be missing a sense of adventure and a spirit of exploration that was somehow perfectly summed up by a design icon of the 1960's that showed engineering excellence would always be more appealing than simple digital capability. 


I think there could be nothing more inspirational than to see the Omega Speedmaster strapped to the wrists of the next generation of astronauts. And in the spirit of "all for one" I'm happy to help them by supplying some very striking examples of the first watch certified for manned space flight. I happen to have a few in my collection and I'd be prepared to discuss a bulk discount obviously. In fact I'll just loan them to NASA and they can return them after the successful mission. I offer that only in the interests of esprit de corps or course!

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