Not much infuriates me more than limitless scientific, technological, and humanitarian potential squandered at the hands of an apathetic public. It was this sort of apathy in the American people that led the United States government to shut down the Apollo program after it was just barely getting the training wheels off. Had we continued to explore Luna throughout the 1970s with the same gusto as the Apollo G-H missions, there is absolutely no telling where we, as a nation and as a species, could’ve been by now.
What if Johnson had got it wrong? What if, somehow, Americans cared more about space exploration and so sought to wring from their $24-billion Apollo investment everything they could?
We are only just now making the small, cautious steps back into the Universe beyond our atmosphere–mostly thanks to the retirement of the ill-advised Shuttle program and ironic “re-ignition” of Apollo-era technology. If the program had continued on the track as originally proposed, we may have already been living in the Tomorrowland vision of the future instead of dreaming about it while riding Space Mountain.
David Portree has a great article at WIRED about that alternative history and where we could’ve been by the dawn of the digital age.