Tuesday, July 12, 2011
A Trip to the Moon
By Alan Caruba
Sometime in the 1980s I found myself on assignment at Cape Kennedy visiting the launch site for all the trips to the moon and the various shuttle voyages to the International Space Station. The shuttle was the size of a small building and the notion that it could be lifted beyond the pull of gravity, flown about in outer space, and return, staggers the imagination.
I was already in my early 30s by the time the United States of America put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon on July 20, 1969. I can recall when President John F. Kennedy spoke of sending men to the moon in 1961.
The subject was primarily the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States that already involved building an arsenal of missiles. That rivalry had sparked the Cold War that began at the end of World War Two in 1945. It was the focus of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. In 1957, the Soviets had launched Sputnik, a small device that circled the Earth emitting a beeping noise. It confirmed that the Soviets were ahead of the U.S. The space program was a cover for the acceleration of missile technology.
There is a cruel irony in the fact that, with the last launch of the shuttle program, the U.S. no longer has the means to put humans in space and must, in fact, secure the assistance of the Russian Federation to send or return its astronauts from the International Space Station.
The Apollo program was an extraordinary achievement in many ways, but the reason the U.S. sent men to the moon was to demonstrate it could also launch a devastating response to the Soviet Union in the event of a missile attack or even a preemptive attack of our own. The message was not lost on the Russians.
So, we put men on the moon, collected a bunch of moon rocks, confirmed it is entirely inhospitable to habitation, and have not returned since December 1972.
Indeed, all of space is inhospitable to mankind. We are Earth-bound creatures and can exist in space only in obscenely expensive vehicles. Meanwhile, unmanned satellites of every description perform a myriad of services including the exploration of lifeless planets far, far away.
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy, speaking at Rice University, said, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
“Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” This was a quintessentially American attitude and explains how in those years and earlier, Americans achieved so much. It explains why Americans pushed beyond the western borders of the original Thirteen States until they reached the Pacific Ocean. It explains how and why they built a vast system of railroads, turned fertile plains into a breadbasket for the nation and vast engine of export. It is why we developed so many technologies we and the rest of the world now take for granted.
Capitalism built this nation. Socialism is destroying it.
The generation of the 1960s and since has also managed to spend themselves into horrendous debt. President Johnson who replaced an assassinated JFK not only expanded a war in Vietnam, but instituted a “Great Society” program in “a war on poverty.” It was a precursor of recent “stimulus” programs. In the process, the nation wasted billions, along with more than 50,000 lives of a generation of young men. President Reagan restored the economy to balance in the 1980s, but since then the profligate spending has not ceased.
The trip to the moon was an exciting adventure, but its purpose was to deter the Soviet Union from gaining too great an advantage over our national security. Today, the present administration stands by idly as Iran develops its own missile and nuclear weapons programs. The Iranians have done so with assistance from the Russians.
Our financial crisis has left Americans feeling defeated in our own eyes and looking weak in the eyes of our allies and our enemies. We have done this to ourselves with “entitlement” programs that began in the 1930s and by allowing an “environmental” movement to strangle domestic development and thwart access to our own vast reserves of energy.
The people whose parents and grandparents put men on the moon stand by as the present national leadership fails and refuses to come to grips with the present challenges. They stand by as their schools turn out new generations that cannot spell, don’t like to read, have little grasp of their nation’s history or values, and rank lower and lower among other nations as educated people.
A tea party in Boston helped launch a war that established our sovereignty and our ascendance among all other nations. A Tea Party today, a movement of patriotic Americans, is all that stands between a nation that sent men to the moon and one that is headed hell-bent to the poorhouse.
© Alan Caruba, 2011