The ‘Wrongs’ of Manned Space Flight Predictions Dates

  • By AdminL
  • August 26, 2009
  • Comments Off on The ‘Wrongs’ of Manned Space Flight Predictions Dates

The fortieth anniversary of the moon landings in July 1969 has come and gone. I had waded briefly into this issue when I –without checking the facts first-stated that the ‘challenge’ or dare by President John F. Kennedy was made ’23 days after’ Yuri Gargarin became the first human to orbit the earth from Space on 12 April 1961 (‘Dare made after 23 days, NST 22 July 2009)


I thank Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (NST 2 August 2009) for correctly pointing out that the late United States President John F. Kennedy made the ‘commitment’ of ‘a landing a man on the moon’ at a special joint session of the United States Congress on 25 May 1961 and not on 5 May 1961 as I have wrongly stated in my letter (NST, 22 July 2009). As it was, I wrote without checking the facts and mistook from memory the date of 5 May 1961 which was the date the first American (and the second human) in space the late Alan Shepard made his 15 minute sub-orbital flight as the date of Kennedy’s ‘challenge’ of ‘landing a man on the moon before this decade is out [i.e. before the end of the 1960s]. (This time I have checked the dates). After I sent my letter and before it was published I realized that I have mixed up the ‘dates’ which easily could have been prevented had I checked (in this information technology age) on the web.


While I am on this topic of ‘dates’ regarding humans travel in Space I would like to make the following observations regarding commitments, predictions and forecasts on this topic. Kennedy was right on target with his May 25, 1961 ‘declaration of intention’  to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s as less than 98 months after his prediction two American men first landed on the Moon on July 20-21, 1969. Still, many other predictions regarding space travel even by experts have turned out to be –admittedly in hindsight and in retrospect- proved to have been ‘gloriously’ optimistic – and wrong.


The late Arthur C. Clarke who in June 1959 basically correctly predicted that by June 1969 humans would have landed on the moon (statement taken from Time magazine July 18.1969 noting that Clarke missed it by a month only) implied in a short story entitled ‘Mars or Bust’ first published in 1970 that by 1984 humans could have landed on the planet Mars. The short story was republished in 1984 (I think) in Discover Magazine. I also recall that the Special Edition of National Geographic magazine published in late 1969/early 1970 stated that the alignment of the Earth and Mars in the October 1983 provides a good ‘timing’ for a possible manned flight to Mars to be launched during that month and year. In late 1969 flushed with the success of the Moon landing this would have seemed quite reasonable.


Now it is more than 25 years past that ‘target’ date. When the last American men left the surface of the Moon in December 1972 it was stated that the earliest ‘estimated date of return’ to the Moon is by the end of the 20th century. And it was only in the year 2005 that former US president George W. Bush makes an exhortation or proposal (not commitment a la Kennedy’s speech of 25 May 1961) to (re)send manned missions to the Moon by the year 2020 or (perhaps at the earliest  by the year 2017) –a much longer time-line than Kennedy’s 1961 ‘dare’. Perhaps at least in the area of space travel involving humans, science does not progress that fast or quickly and we can continue to be (non) cautiously and justifiably pessimistic in our ‘forecasts’ as regards future developments.


Associate Professor Dr. Myint Zan

School of Law

Multimedia University


Tel (016) 690 5324 


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