Former Nasa astronaut Rusty Schweickart gave a moving speech at the 2019 Asteroid Day gala
Photo: Matic Zorman
Former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart drew on 4 billion years of evolution to describe the love and responsibility humans have for Earth thanks to space travel, during his keynote speech at Saturday’s Asteroid Day gala dinner.
Photo: Matic Zorman
The 83-year-old co-founder of the Asteroid Day Foundation was the lunar module pilot of the 1969 Apollo 9 mission.
“It wasn’t Neil Armstrong who could look back on Earth, but it was all of us. That was the significance of Apollo […] For the first time human eyes saw this incredible evolution that is earth life, not just human life, but all life on this planet,” Schweickart said describing the Earthrise photo taken by William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission.
Likening the evolutionary process to a “cosmic birth” when “out of the womb of earth, life emerged”, Schweickart described the transition of the relationship through dependency and love. “We’re all in love with this planet now, we were not 20 years ago […] We now not only understand this love relationship, but right on its heels is responsibility.”
For Schweickart, the responsibility lies in protecting our fragile existences on Earth from the real threat of asteroids, which wiped out the dinosaurs. “We’ve a lot of power. But, do we have the intelligence and sensibility to utilise our talents, power, machines to ensure the survival of life on earth to meet this future demand?” Schweickart said, adding the key challenge was convincing global politicians to agree on an appropriate response.
“The political challenge of making this decision, not as individual nations, but as a collective planetary survival issue, the decision to deflect an asteroid heading for an impact away from that rendez-vous with earth is a planetary decision, this is one in which time is of the essence.”
Helping people to understand this challenge, he said, was the reason he and others like him created Asteroid Day five years ago, “so that when it manifests collectively we can respond to it.”
Asteroid Day itself takes place on 30 June, a symbolic date as it marks the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska impact, the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history.
For the third year, Luxembourg hosted a live stream of interviews with people active in the space sector, from scientists to astronauts and newspace startups.
The programme was broadcast from the Cercle Cité on Friday and was followed on Saturday with a public meet and greet with astronauts including Rusty Schweickart, Ed Lu and Dorin Prunariu and Michel Tognini. Events were also hosted around the world.