Five months before I was born, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth. In 1969, as an 11-year-old, I watched the black-and-white images of American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon. That was a huge advancement in a remarkably short time.
Space exploration has continued to evolve with missions to Mars and Venus, placing space stations and telescopes in orbit, and dispatching probes to the far reaches of the solar system. There have been so many advances, in fact, that we sometimes take them for granted. We have lost our sense of awe. Which is too bad, because there have been a number of recent developments that deserve some appreciation.
For instance, China just became the first country to conquer the technical difficulties of landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon — not the dark side, as Pink Floyd described it. The far side of the moon gets sunlight on a regular basis as it orbits the Earth while the Earth itself orbits the sun. So when the moon is full to our eyes, the far side is dark; when it’s a new moon — shadowed to our eyes — sunlight is striking the far side.