Good reason for our minds to be on another planet
It's one of my very earliest memories: my father holds my hand as we walk to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread. It's an early evening in July 1969.
At Akhaleka's convenience store (we kids call it "Uncle Lekker") we also buy a copy of the Argus.
Everyone reads the Argus because, back then, we don't have Twitter. In 1969 we're so backward we don't even have Riaan Cruywagen. And everyone is reading the newspapers because the world is transfixed by a massive event: man has just walked on the moon.
After buying the paper and bread, my father and I start walking back home. We meet an elderly gent we both recognise from the neighbourhood. As people do in those days, he and my dad stop to exchange pleasantries.
I don't remember the conversation but I do recall one of the grown-ups looking up at the moon and saying simply, "Isn't it wonderful?", and the other replying, "Yes, it's quite wonderful." And then there are a few seconds of silence as we all gawk at the moon like we're wondering: "Where did that thing just come from?"
Those were heady days and everyone on the planet; me, my father and the old guy from Plumstead included, were filled with awe, enjoying a little feeling of satisfaction that our species had pulled off something so daring, so very wonderful.
After Apollo XI we landed a few more Americans on the moon and then, a few years later, one of them came to Plumstead. He spoke to the public at the old Three Arts theatre, a cavernous cinema that could seat something like 3000 white people. Wonder of wonders, he even had a piece of moon rock with him.
My family went to listen to this otherworldly superstar but we couldn't get in, there were so many people wanting to listen to Astronaut Guy. With maybe 1000 more people, we were packed into the foyer where we watched proceedings on a couple of grainy, little black and white TV screens.
It wasn't as good as being in the presence of the astronaut, but it was still pretty cool because we'd never seen a TV set before. Many years later we actually owned a TV set and one day I bunked school to watch something almost as momentous as Apollo XI: the launch of the first space shuttle.
We might have had a TV set but we didn't have a recorder so I got my little Super 8 camera out and I shot the shuttle launch - on our JVC TV set. Those were much simpler days and we were a lot easier to please. Since then nothing much has happened in space. We've sent unmanned pieces of satellite into space, big telescopes and probes that have gone beyond the edge of the solar system but it's all been a bit esoteric, looking for bugs on Martian polar caps and things.
All of a sudden, though, in the midst of the world's worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, space is getting sexy again. Last week a South African boy sent up a rocket with a payload that successfully docked with the International Space Station.
Both bits of metal were travelling at something like 25000km/h at the moment they rendezvoused. It was the first commercial delivery of cargo in space.
And last week we heard that the SKA - whatever it is and however it's going to work - is going to be built here. Or most of it is. These days, if you're very rich, you can even pop down to your local travel agency and book yourself a seat on Tuesday's 9.45 flight to inner space thanks to another entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson.
And best of all, it now appears that we are really, finally going to send men to Mars.
Last week Nasa confirmed that it had pencilled in 2033 as a good date for sending humans to the red planet. (It seems the weather forecast is favourable for that particular year. Or something.)
This is wonderful news. We humans need something really big - like going to Mars - to take our minds off all the troubles we have and to stop us getting bored and starting wars with each other.
In South Africa no one noticed the Mars announcement because we were all getting hot under the collar after a dimwit white artist painted a picture depicting the black president's willy. There's got to be a bigger picture out there somewhere.