But why, some say, the moon?

This time last week I was on a United Airlines flight returning from Orange County, where m’learned colleague James Box and I were presenting at the UIE Web App Summit. We ran a workshop on Wireframing and Prototyping for Highly Interactive Web Apps in which we covered the various joys of Post-its, paper and jQuery, and presented on Using Interactive Prototyping for a Richer Web Experience in which we extolled the virtues of HTML as a design tool.

On the flight home we watched Frost/Nixon, a dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon. As the credits rolled, we looked at each other and unanimously claimed the film to be ‘bloody brilliant’. Particularly marvellous were the superb portrayals of the protaganists by Michael Sheen and Frank Langella respectively. I heartily recommend it.

In the film, Nixon’s masterful handling of Frost’s early questioning brought to mind John F Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech at Rice University, in which he explained and defended America’s space effort, in particular landing a man on the Moon.

Kennedy manages to justify what could be viewed as an unconscionably expensive piece of paranoid Cold War propaganda – it was as much about getting there first as getting there at all – as an unprecedented exercise in engineering and exploration. His justification is beautifully simple:

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. 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.

I’m not making any point at all here, other than to be reminded of one of the great speeches of the 20th century. By the way, I challenge you to listen to the audio and not have a mental picture of Mayor Joe Quimby.