The US space program led to the first color photographs of the Earth taken from the Moon in 1969. No one had ever seen it from so far away and it moved people. In fact, it resulted in a new conservation movement which eventually led to Earth Day in 1970.
Conservationists and environmental activists at the time based the space program as being frivolous (“we need to solve problems here on Earth first”). However, the space program has done more to further their goals than any other single act could have.
- From The Clock of the Long Now where they discuss framing problems and looking for unlikely pairs (like conservation and space exploration and terraforming).
- Another unlikely conservation pair is the passenger pigeon that saved the bison.
- Inspiration fades (when you have the inspiration, act right away), but important ideas do not.
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While government tends to be short-term oriented (the election cycle drives decisions so officials can be re-elected), an area the do feel comfortable thinking long term is infrastructure. With regularity, they will initiate projects to build roads, telecommunications, buildings, and other infrastructure that takes many years to build (the second avenue subway line in Manhattan started in 1972).