October 4-10 is United Nations’ World Space Week. Fifty-five years ago, the Space Age began in dramatic fashion when humanity’s first satellite, Sputnik, was launched into orbit, seizing newspaper headlines around the globe. A succession of spectacular “firsts” soon followed – first person in space, first colour picture of Earth from space, first person on the Moon.
However, one of the most important impacts of this suite of early Space Age feats is something that transcends their specific scientific or technical value. Namely, the Moon landing changed the way that people think about the limits of human accomplishment. After all, the Space Age gave birth to a commonly used phrase in popular discourse: “If we can put a man on the Moon, why can’t we do X,” where X can be any one of a thousand dreams of humanity, whether old or new.
In the decades following the Moon landing, in sectors ranging from the explosive growth of computers and the Internet to advances in biotechnology and agriculture, thousands of scientists, engineers, visionaries and entrepreneurs were propelled by the inspirational backdrop of Apollo. It provided an “existence proof” that willpower, determination and thinking big could lead to truly amazing things.
Given my background as an entrepreneur and aerospace engineer, this line of thinking is particularly resonant for me. In my ventures in advanced software, space resources, commercial spaceflight and renewable energy, I am constantly inspired by the amazing achievements of Apollo. And, as my friend Peter H. Diamandis said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.” There is no limit to what determined minds can achieve.
In fact, in the 21st century, the role of thinking big in entrepreneurship and business is nothing short of an indispensable characteristic for humanity. We face so many opportunities and challenges in this new era that thinking small is simply not an option. Audacity, endurance, determination and vision must be part and parcel of the fabric of the type of entrepreneurs that the World Economic Forum seeks to encourage.
The pay-off will be nothing short of enormous. After all, to quote a saying by Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors in human history, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would truly astonish ourselves.”
So, let’s get started!
Author: An aerospace and software engineer by training, Eric C. Anderson has been widely credited with creating and developing the business of, and global market for, orbital human spaceflight. His portfolio of companies takes on challenges such as automating human knowledge and revolutionizing software development, expanding the planet’s resource base to include the asteroids, commercializing human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit, and bringing practical renewable energy to the marketplace. In 2008 he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Twitter: @ec_anderson
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