Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin first went to space 50 years ago. This was a momentous trip. Space travel is likely the biggest step humanity ever took to ensure our place in the future. Due to pollution, depletion of resources, our sun going supernova, or some other yet-unforeseen problem, people will be forced to leave the Earth one day. Spacecraft will be helpful with the exodus. This anniversary also highlights another oft-quoted fact about the evolution of digital processors and computers.
In 1969, the Apollo spacecraft was fitted with circuits and silicon and wires. Its computer was powerful for its time, but it could only compute a few dozen kilobytes of information. And it was slow.
There is more processing ability and memory in an Olympic stopwatch. If you are reading this, there is more computing power at your fingertips than the entire human race could access for millions of years.
By this logic, your cell phone could have calculated the flight trajectories and landing paths of an armada of early spacecraft. Imagine if Leonardo DaVinci had a laptop. What would Plato do with Wikipedia? What are you doing with your laptop? What about your iPod or Blackberry? Is it helping you create and expand? Do you use it to explore? Or is it just another tool to find you better and faster distractions? The world is watching and waiting for new leaders and thinkers. Are you one of them? The next Isaac Newton is out there, but this time, he won’t have to crunch cosmic numbers on an abacus.