Breaking the Future Barrier

By Michael Lee

Barriers to progress may be physical, psychological, social, conceptual, and technological or a combination of any of these limits.

When Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile on May 6th 1954 in Oxford (his time was 3 min 59.4 sec.), the barrier was primarily physical, although he certainly had to overcome any mental blocks associated with achieving what had never been done before. When test pilot Charles “Chuck” Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14th, 1947, flying the X-1 at Mach 1.07 while soaring at an altitude of 45,000 ft., he shattered at once physical, technological and psychological barriers, all while nursing two broken ribs. When Professor Chris Barnard performed the first human heart transplant after midnight on December 3, 1967 at Groote Schuur Hospital, highly dependent on the heart-lung bypass machine, he pushed forward life-extending surgery to a new level and established, among other things, the acceptability of using transplanted organs of brain-dead donors. And when Neil Armstrong became the first human being to step onto the surface of another heavenly body during the Apollo 11 lunar landing of July 21st, 1969, he had over 400,000 individuals and the new technologies of liquid fuel rockets and computer-guided navigation systems to thank for this unforgettable moment in history when the space barrier was decisively broken.

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