Shoot for the Moon

Minister and author Norman Vincent Peale (1898–1993) said we should “shoot for the Moon” because even if we miss, we’ll land among the stars.*


What utter nonsense!

We are, here on Earth, already “among the stars” in some sense, given our planet’s location within the Milky Way galaxy. However, the disparity between the distance to the Moon (less than 400,000 km and the nearest star (the Sun) 150 million km and the next nearest (Proxima Centauri) 4.24 lightyears or 10^13 km is quite staggering. This means that even travelling as fast as a speeding bullet, one would have to wait a very, very long time before the shot would approach even just one near star. Moreover, one would have to assume that one’s aim were very true and that there were no debris in between your gun and said nearest star. However, where would one “land” to be among the stars, one might assume some distant planet or asteroid orbiting said star, but we’ve only just managed to land a craft on a comet in our own Solar System, the “landing” part is tougher than you think. Indeed, although we have landed on the actual Moon, there were many failed attempts before Armstrong’s “one small step“.

But, when did shooting at something ever involve the person doing the shooting being carried along with the projectile to the target, anyway?

Of course, mine is a literal deconstruction of the purportedly inspirational adage…whoever first said it, wasn’t really being that inspirational anyway. Isn’t the Moon literally the nearest thing one could aim for in space? Where’s the ambition in that? Surely, the adage should be about something a little more aspirational, as Preciosa Angela Maiquez puts it in a blog I found while writing my own post on this issue:

The quote is supposed to suggest that we must dream big, but why aim for the closest thing? Why not aim for something farther? e.g. 'Shoot for Neptune...even if you miss, you may land on Jupiter?” Again, why aim for the closest planetary element? Why not aspire to go beyond? Outside the Milky Way, perhaps, or outside the universe itself?

I don’t like inspirational quotes, especially scientifically inaccurate ones… ;-)

*Or, was it Les Brown?