'That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind' said the American astronaut Neil Armstrong, landing on the moon.
The English astrophysicist Fred Hoyle agreed that it was a small step: 'Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards'. But the difficulties of that short journey have been memorably encapsulated by the words of astronaut James Lovell of Apollo 13: 'Houston, we've had a problem', and flight director Gene Krantz's response: 'Failure is not an option'.
The pioneering German rocket engineer Wernher von Braun took a very positive line on colonising space: 'Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go - and he'll do plenty well when he gets there', but the English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was more cautious: 'We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system'. 'Beautiful! Beautiful! Magnificent desolation' was the reaction of the American astronaut Buzz Aldrin, on landing on the moon.
Astronomy deals in large numbers. 'Space is almost infinite. As a matter of fact, we think it is infinite' said the American Republican politician Dan Quayle. Three hundred years earlier the French scientist Blaise Pascal said 'The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me'. The same silence inspired the Italian-born American physicist Enrico Fermi to formulate his question on the existence of extra-terrestrials 'But where is everybody?'
But perhaps the most famous quotation on astronomy remains one of the earliest: Galileo's 'But it does move' said, according to tradition, after he had recanted his assertion that the earth moves around the sun.