Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Happy Peak of Western Civilization Day

{Note: This essay is a re-post from 2018. While we look with favor on billionaires pioneering private space adventure, they haven't yet achieved what the US space program had done, with slide rules and vacuum tubes, by 1962. And until they get to Mars, nothing I wrote here originally is any less true today. - A.}

Fifty-two years ago today, and just a few hours from now, is the exact anniversary of when 50,000 steely-eyed missile men, crew-cutted geeks with pocket protectors, test pilots, fighter pilots, and hundreds of metric tons of raw testosterone kicked the rest of the world's ass right to the bottom of the heap, going back to the dawn of time, from the moment that Eagle landed, to when this guy's foot stepped off the LEM ladder.

Neil Armstrong, ace X-15 test pilot, and mission commander of Apollo XI, became the first man from earth to ever set foot on the Moon, and if and until we ever get people to Mars, he put every explorer in history, and even every guy to follow, below him on what Tom Wolfe correctly called "the top of the pyramid."

He was there because he and his sidekick, lunar module pilot, and outside-the-box revolutionary thinker Buzz Aldrin

had managed to land the lunar module manually, off course, and with mere seconds remaining for landing before a crash-tastrophe, because you don't fly 250,000 miles to puss out at the last 12 seconds, just for such piddling concerns as running out of fuel.

Meanwhile, as command module pilot Michael Collins

was searching the Moon's surface from lunar orbit to spot whereinhell (or rather, where in the Sea Of Tranquility) Eagle had actually landed, Armstrong and Aldrin were running through checklists and getting ready for the culmination of the combined effort of tens of thousands of people at NASA (back when they had a purpose, and a clue) and hundreds of thousands of contractors and subcontractors, all accomplished to make the trip possible, less than a decade from Kennedy's speech promising we'd do it.

Because that's what Americans do.

There are countries that use the metric system, and those that have landed on the Moon.

It wasn't until 8 years later, with the lackluster premiere of uber-mediocre science fiction government conspiracy trope film Capricorn One in 1977 (James Brolin and O.J. Simpson as heroes in that movie should have been the tip-off there), after the moon landings had all concluded, that any one of countless hordes of fruitcakes started seriously espousing the idea that we'd somehow magically faked the landings, necessarily including hundreds of thousands of people, from NASA, to the Russians, to every country with a radar, as being somehow "in" on the hokey asstardian imaginary conspiracy suggested, and all agreeing to STFU about it. Until it was cleverly revealed by people showing how they did it, using special effects and video technology completely unavailable anywhere in 1969. Well played, lunatards.
Occam's Razor alone slashes the throat of that nonsense, but some of these former alien seekers, bigfoot hunters, and Loch Ness monster fisherman still cling to their flat-earth retarded psychosis, despite the fact that people were regularly bouncing laser beams off the reflectors placed there in during the Apollo missions to prove the lie of such nonsense,

and the mental illness persists today despite even recent high-res fly-by photography of the lunar surface that has photographed the sites of all the lunar missions, including spotting the astronauts' footprint tracks and the tire ruts from the buggy explorations of later flights, and spotting the pieces of our space leftovers from altitude, right where they're supposed to be.
Because, as news to a previous America-hating president, we built that.

But you can't argue mentally defective lunatics out of a position with reason and logic when they didn't use that to get there in the first place.

The inescapable truth, for those sane enough not to fart simply to smell their own tailwinds, is that we went there, as the only nation that could, and the one that did, and the glory of that belongs to those who did it, for all time.

America haters at home and abroad: This is what it looks like when patriotic geeks
 cut loose and freak out. So you losers can suck it.

But on the day, that summer Sunday afternoon in 1969, when Armstrong stepped out the door to rendezvous with destiny, there wasn't one single car on the streets, anywhere. I was there, and I went outside, and I saw it with my own eyes, kids, from a house just up the street from where Rocketdyne made the Saturn V engines that took us there, again and again. 
Nothing outside moving, anywhere. Not. One. Single. Person.

Every single human on the planet with access to one was huddled in front of black-and-white or color TVs, back when TV had those choices, and each holding their breath waiting for the moment that the cream of 1969 video technology broadcast the shadowy moment to the waiting world.

Not Adidas. Or Nike. But totally made in America, baby.

Of the only twelve men who've ever walked on the Moon, only four remain alive today, including Buzz Aldrin. Neil Armstrong passed away at age 82, nearly nine years ago. The four survivors were all born in the 1930s. The baby of the group is 85. Aldrin is the old man, at 91.

But they, the other astronauts (and even cosmonauts) who made it possible, and the other men and women who built the machines and the systems that allowed us to conquer space and take our first steps on another spinning orb, deserve the eternal glory and thanks of the entire world, both that was and that is, for fulfilling such a primal urge, and manifesting the best and brightest of human destiny.

We need to go to Mars, and beyond that, because that's what we were made to do.
We plan, we measure, and we accomplish, because we have minds to think, imaginations to soar, and dreams to fulfill, always beyond that next horizon.
And we're only at our best when we're doing just exactly that.

We came in peace for all mankind.

Remember their efforts, and their greatness, if the pants-piddling diaper-soiling incompetence of the current crop of government jackholes starts to get you down.

We can do better than them. We can even do better than Apollo.

And. We. Shall.  


Charlie said...


Lived in Pasadena, TX at the time. My dad worked the space shots for NBC. My neighbor was a NASA mid -level engineer. My stepfather worked in his brother in law's print shop that did all NASA's promo prints.

We went.
Without the metric system.
Without an international consensus.
Without anyone's help and/or approval.

Dinochrome One said...

In 1969, I was in Electronics Technician "A" School on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. We were all in the barracks TV-lounge watching the landing; one of our guys set up an 8mm movie camera to record the event. Deafening cheers when the Eagle landed, and again when Neil Armstrong put his foot on the lunar surface. All the Navy's ETs were space cadets.

kurt9 said...

It is worth considering that SpaceX has developed reusable rockets, which is something NASA never did. It is also worth considering that SpaceX and the others are accomplishing with far fewer resources, particularly manpower, than what NASA had in the 60's. It is still fair to say that technological innovation is making it easier for smaller groups to do what could only be done by large groups in the past. So, I consider the trend to be valid despite the fact they have yet to return to the Moon or go to Mars.

Besides, we got nanotechnology, which they never had in the 1960's: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/agt2.18

John said...


We're not done, and this isn't over.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

We can, Aesop. Not that Science Fiction is any kind of establisher of actual fact, but usually it is the misfits and outcasts and rebels that go to space, or at least go to space and make a go of it. The bureaucratic, boring, safe, and politically correct types are all the ones that stay home.

I really would like to believe there is a generation that will do this sort of thing again. Sadly, I cannot see it from where I sit today.

Robin Datta said...

Tom Murphy is a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of California, San Diego. He works for NASA monitoring the movements of the moon to centimeter precision by laser interferometry with reflectors left on the moon by the Apollo program. His blog Do The Math was archived and quiescent for a long time; Why Not Space? is a relevant post from it. In it he refers to John Michael Greer's An Elegy for the Age of Space but the link points to Greer's now-defunct blog, The Archdruid Report; the link provided here is to a cross-posting on resilience.org which is still active.

When Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos decide on a project, they control every penny spent. Big government programs accumulate hangers-on like a ship accumulates barnacles. Federal and state legislators, constituents in their home districts, expanding departmental bureaucracies in the government, contractors, sub- and sub-sub contractors and their bureaucracies, lobbyists, etc. are pigs at the trough which bloat the costs since no one taxpayer has the power of an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos to control expenses.