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One small step for man – 50 years ago today

Tim Newton

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One small step for man – 50 years ago today | The Thaiger
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On this day, a mere 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the powdery surface of the moon. It was the first time humans had stepped anywhere other than the ‘pale blue dot’ of Earth.

Everyone alive at the time can recall ‘where they were’ at this historic moment. It was a triumph of American ambition and engineering. Some 300,000 people were involved with the mission that was promised to the world by then-President John F. Kennedy eight years earlier in 1961.

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

NASA delivered on the promise, 6 months before deadline, in a decade where America was also grappling with the Vietnam War (Indochina War), social upheaval, civil rights and a youth demanding to be heard, sometimes violently.

Half a century later and there are still a few who, despite the advances in science, knowledge and education accumulated in those 50 years, still believe the moon landing was a ‘hoax’ and that the earth is flat.

I was a 10 year old sitting in my school library watching a 25″ black and white TV along with 200 other students. Honestly, we couldn’t see a lot as the fuzzy pictures were transmitted back from the moon (via Honeysuckle Creek tracking station in Australia), but we knew the moment was historic and we’d been well primed for months by teachers telling us “you’ll be telling your grand children about this mission”. Luckily it was around lunchtime for us in eastern Australia – well timed by NASA, thanks.

The mission to send men to the moon was less a human adventure and more about a nation’s paranoia and fear in the Cold War era. The Russians had a jump on the Americans with the first satellite in space and then the first man in space. America needed to get ‘ahead’ and Congress was willing to spend big to save face and regain the lead in the space race.

But like anything, keeping the PR momentum following the Apollo 11 mission, was difficult and the other moon landing missions attracted fewer viewers and front page headlines. Apollo missions 18-20 were even cancelled. NASA then focussed on the ‘space’ a lot closer to earth with a space station and the Shuttle program.

We all know the names of the Apollo 11 crew. But name the crew of Apollo 12. No? Either can I.

This week President Donald Trump greeted the surviving two astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission – Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – to the White House. Neil Armstrong died following heart surgery in 2012 but his relatives were invited.

The President asked Buzz Aldrin, the second human ever to walk on the moon, what he thought about the US’ current ability to operate in space 50 years after the Apollo 11 mission, the ex-astronaut had a ready response.

“Actually, I’ve been a little disappointed over the last 10 or 15 years,” Aldrin told Trump.

One small step for man - 50 years ago today | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: President Tump and 88 year old Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin,the second man to walk on the moon – Reuters

NASA, more through budget cuts that intention, has been restricted in its ambitions since the Apollo missions. The American tax-payers have cut the paltry space-spend and inter-planetary missions have been by robot and unmanned space craft instead. We’ve actually reached out beyond our own solar system, had 900 kilogram ‘rovers’ traversing large areas of Mars, built an international space-station and built orbiting telescopes that have probed our known universe almost back to the Big Bang. So NASA’s post-Apollo expertise certainly hasn’t been wasted.

Now private funding is heralding a new era of commercial space flight with the promise of passenger flights and re-useable rockets. But the reality is that the enormous amounts of money needed to fund the ‘big’ projects, just like the moon landing 50 years ago, will still take chunks of national budgets, not private funds. Privateers would always need to prove a return-on-spend to their shareholders with low-risk, high yield projects. Manned spaceflight is extremely high risk with no promise on return at all.

But ‘man’ will next head to Mars and, sometime in the next decade, we may all gather around our smartphones or, alone with our VR goggles, to watch our race take the next small step into space.

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Economy

Dow and S&P 500 take a breath after an ugly week, tech stocks lead the way down

The Thaiger

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Dow and S&P 500 take a breath after an ugly week, tech stocks lead the way down | The Thaiger

US stocks closed lower yesterday to end an ugly week downbeat with ‘uncertainty’ remaining the overwhelming sentiment. Tech stocks led the march downwards. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped in its biggest monthly collapse since March with investors reacting to rising Covid-19 cases in the US and Europe, peppered by nervousness ahead of next Tuesday’s US presidential election. The increased volatility forced all three major indexes seeing their biggest weekly declines since the worst of the coronavirus-inspired selloff 8 months ago.

The Dow fell around 157 points, to end near 26,502, according to preliminary figures, while the S&P 500 lost around 40 points, or 1.2%, to finish near 3,270. The Nasdaq Composite gave up around 274 points, or 2.4%, closing near 10,912. The Dow had a 6.5% weekly fall and a 4.6% monthly drop. Friday’s decline saw the Nasdaq negative for the month of October, falling 2.3%. The Nasdaq was down 5.5% for the week.

The Dow dropped more than 500 points at its session low with tech stocks – primarily Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook – leading the market decline.

A number of stocks were on the move, down, following a slew of earnings, including from the tech giants. Twitter sank more than 20% on slowing growth, while Exxon reported its 3rd straight quarter of losses.

Key moments yesterday…

  • Dow closed down 0.59% for its 5th negative day out of 6
  • S&P 500 closed down 1.21% for its 4th negative day in 5
  • Dow closed down 6.47% this week for its worst week since March 20
  • S&P closed down 5.64% this week for its worst week since March 20 when the S&P lost 14.98%
  • S&P closed down 2.77% this month for its second-straight negative month
  • Nasdaq closed down 5.51% this week for its worst week since March 20 when the Nasdaq lost 12.64%

Dow and S&P 500 take a breath after an ugly week, tech stocks lead the way down | News by The Thaiger

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Tourism

From tourist heroes to zero – how the world’s former tourist magnets are coping

The Thaiger & The Nation

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From tourist heroes to zero – how the world’s former tourist magnets are coping | The Thaiger

If over-tourism became the buzzword in the travel industry in 2019, the opposite applies in 2020 when most of the world’s most popular tourist magnets are now facing a genuine economic crisis, forced on them by government closures and a risk-averse travel public, most of whom are prevented from travel beyond their own borders. We visit Dubrovnik, Santorini, Ibiza, Barcelona, Venice, Bali and Phuket.

Despite the perils of overtourism, and all sorts of plans to limit the rising foot-traffic, nothing could have prepared these bucket list locations for the challenge they now face. Travel bans, quarantines and nationwide lockdowns are forcing travellers to stay home and face their own domestic economic issues.

Travel is a long way down the list now for much of the world’s middle class who made up the vast majority of global travellers. More than most industries, Covid-19 has brought the world’s travel industry to its knees.

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Weather

At least 35 dead, 100s injured, 50+ missing in Vietnam typhoon Molave

The Thaiger

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At least 35 dead, 100s injured, 50+ missing in Vietnam typhoon Molave | The Thaiger

‘Molave’ has been the most powerful typhoon to hit Vietnam in 20 years. As it peters out into a harmless low pressure front making its way westwards in Thailand. Officials say the death toll across Vietnam may rise as some regions have been unable to report details of damage and casualties. This morning the remnants of Molave are sitting directly over central Thailand dumping rain but having lost its power.

A ‘typhoon’ is the Asian version of a hurricane or cyclone.

At least 35 dead, 100s injured, 50+ missing in Vietnam typhoon Molave | News by The Thaiger

Vietnam deployed soldiers and heavy machinery to search for survivors after landslides triggered by torrential rains from Typhoon Molave, one of the strongest typhoons to hit the region in decades. The main focus for rescue workers has been 3 villages in Vietnam’s central region where landslides killed at least 19 and are suspected of burying more than 40 others in thick mud. Rescue efforts are being hampered by bad weather at the tail end of the storm.

In Tra Leng village, about 45 kilometres from Tra Van, another landslide buried a community with several houses occupied by about 45 people. Rescuers say4 people escaped, while they recovered 8 bodies and later pulled out another 4 villagers alive, including 2 children, who were trapped in a buried house.

Tra Leng was initially cut off to rescue efforts as roads were washed away, flooding and other landslides. By late yesterday government rescue teams were able to open up a road with bulldozers and brought in more rescue teams and heavy equipment.

The Vietnamese government said Typhoon Molave had left millions of people without electricity and damaged at least 56,000 houses and caused a massive blackout in the Quang Ngai province, where 1.7 million people endured the onslaught of the typhoon in darkness.

Also among the dead are 12 fishermen whose boats sank Wednesday as Typhoon Molave approached with winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour.

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