I was 17 when I watched the lunar landing. It is impossible to convey to today’s unimaginative children the magnitude of that event. It was, in the truest sense of the words, wonderful, incredible, and awesome.
In 1961 Jack Kennedy proposed putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Most Americans probably didn’t believe it. Space travel was science fiction in 1961. Starting from zero, using technology primitive compared to a smartphone, that deadline was beaten by nearly six months.
Ending the space program was a colossal, perhaps fatal, blunder. Humanity’s only hope is to find a way off this planet. If we don’t, we will reproduce ourselves into extinction. I believe that if all the money squandered on Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and the drug war had gone to NASA, there would now be thriving colonies on Mars.
I am a firm believer that less government is better than more, but there are some projects too large for the private sector. No corporation or consortium could possibly have raised the money or assembled the talent necessary to reach the moon in 1961. It was all investment with no apparent return. How do you sell that to stock holders?
And to those who believe that the government is incapable of doing anything right, I would point out Hoover Dam, winning WWII and the Interstate system, as well as the lunar program. Some things cannot be done privately.
On this question of engineering, I can only add a story. I was working in the tech world when the phrase “software engineer” became current. Engineers, those who build real things like dams, bridges, etc., were incensed. Their professional organizations went to court to stop it. They lost. So now it’s possible to be a “Lego engineer” or an “idea engineer,” if you like. The real meaning of the word vanished:)