Was the moon landing really a giant step for mankind?

One of the most famous quotes in modern history comes from what Neil Armstrong said in 1969 when he was the first person to step onto the moon’s surface – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

(Armstrong claims he said or meant to say “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, which makes more sense as ‘for man’ and ‘for mankind’ could mean much the same thing).

Was it really a giant step for mankind? The space race was a big achievement for sure and resulted in some accelerated technological advances, but is mankind really better off for the moon landing?

There were more men stepping onto the moon up until 1972, but in the 48 years since then no one has tried to set foot there again, so walking on the moon doesn’t seem to have been a particularly important thing to do apart from the fact of being there and collecting a few rocks.

I really don’t know if it was a giant step or not. It was very costly getting there and back again, that money could have been spent on something far more beneficial back here on Earth.

Some big achievements end up not being beneficial.

When Tensing Norgay and Ed Hillary stepped onto the top of सगरमाथा/ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ/珠穆朗玛 (named Mount Everest by foreigners) it was a big deal for them, for their British expedition and for mountaineering. And the waning British Empire claimed some pride and glory.

But now the highest mountain in the world attracts hordes of people trudge up well worn tracks in the snow using prefixed ropes and ladders to claim some personal glory – often having to wait in long queues for their turn – perhaps queues are something the British introduced. In recent years hundreds of people have summitted, with a record 891 last year. I guess there has been some good for the Nepalese economy and tourism

But the human race gains next nothing out of Norgay’s and Hillary’s achievement.

And what’s the point of stepping on the moon when there are still a lot of things that need to be sorted out on Earth?