August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, RIP

Tom Wolfe's conclusion at the end of The Right Stuff seems accurate:, the Space Race was, among much else, a single combat (e.g., David v. Goliath) version of the Cold War. Rather than blow up the world, each side picked their best and bravest to attempt the most awe-inspiring feat in human history to show the rest of the world whose system deserved to win. 

We won the Space Race, and 20 years later we had won the Cold War.

97 comments:

Anonymous said...

>We won the Space Race, and 20 years later we had won the Cold War.

But you were booted out of Vietnam, gave away your manufacturing base ("Designed in California", indeed), lost Afghanistan and Iraq, and worst of all, are facing a situation where the curent American generation will be definitively worse off than the previous, as they pay off the trillions in debt the Republican cowboys starting with Reagan spent in the name of American exceptionalism (exceptionaly broke, I say).

In a word: decline. In three words: Sorry ass decline.

Anonymous said...

RIP Neil Armstrong, an engineer to the end.

As for the USA... if the idea that all men are created equal was the underpinning of the US system, the eventual crumbling of the edifice was only a matter of time. A large proportion of the population still thinks that the magical institutions and laws of the United States can transform Mexicans into the sort of people who could send a man to the moon. Unfortunately, sending a man to the moon is the sort of job that Mexicans just won't do.

Anonymous said...

I know it sounds nutty, but I have my lingering doubts that it actually happened given 1960s technology.

Anonymous said...

"We won the Space Race, and 20 years later we had won the Cold War."

and 20 years ago USA had won the world war and then...bueller..bueller

Anonymous said...

In a word: decline. In three words: Sorry ass decline.

True Dat.

On the other hand, 40 years of "1-Child" in Communist/Mercantilist/Fascist "Red" China is about to produce an economic collapse the likes of which the world hasn't seen since Mt Vesuvius took out Pompeii.

And I wouldn't waste any money betting that all those fetal-alcohol-syndrome kids in Russia are gonna set the world on fire, either.

So yes, things are bad [very, very BAD] in the USA.

But they are absolutely HOPELESS in places like China, Russia, Japan, and Germany, which can't seem to get any normal, healthy babies whatsoever in their maternity wards.

Karen said...

Anonymous, decline sucks but since the other option was nuclear annihilation, I fail to see a reason to complain. Neil Armstrong was an example of the best of humanity and should be remembered that way. FWIW, if you want to complain about something, complain that because the Soviets lost the Cold War, we won't honor the cosmonauts like we should. Yuri Gagarin was as much a hero as Armstrong, and I hope they have a chance to chat in the next world

Anonymous said...

Had US lost the space race, it still would have won the cold war.

Anonymous said...

We didn't win the cold war...

Anonymous said...

Off topic. Sorry.

John Mcwhorter and Glenn Loury discuss standardized testing and the gap:

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/10436

Melendwyr said...

The entire manned space program is a byproduct of the need to convince the USSR (and potential rivals) that they could not gain an advantage by trying to weaponize space.

It has achieved nothing of substance that couldn't have been accomplished more cheaply, easily, and quickly with unmanned probes.

It furthers and encourages the idea that sensationalism and emotion should determine policy.

And perhaps worst of all, it deludes people into accepting that it represents progress in establishing a meaningful human presence in space - it's questionable whether such would truly be of value, but the delusion *cannot* be worthwhile.

It represents practicality, skill, and genius - wasted on the ends set by political advantage, sentiment, and the desire for entertainment. As those vices have dominated, the virtues have withered - which has brought us to our imminent downfall.

Kylie said...

"We won the Space Race, and 20 years later we had won the Cold War."

And 20 years after that, we seem hellbent on relinquishing our status as a First World nation.

Anonymous said...

Can't help thinking of the wider symbolisim of Armstrong's death.

Lest we forget around 1969, the USA was at the whitest it had ever been or ever will be, also the USA was undisputed top-dog industrially, militarily, economically etc by a long chalk - only the old USSR (whatever happened to that?), could come within a furlong of rivalry.
Also, it was the swan-song of the 'Mad Men' era of the white male being pretty much unchalleneged at the top of the pyramid in the USA, whilst the USA was top of the pyramid internationally. Add in a whiff of Pan Am, Martini, Playboy, lounge music etc, and you've got what to us is a totally different era.

The age before The Kennedy/Johnson mischief really worked through.

Anonymous said...

"as they pay off the trillions in debt the Republican cowboys starting with Reagan spent in the name of American exceptionalism (exceptionaly broke, I say)." - By which you mean non-discretionary spending, right? Of course democrat spending programs are chickens feed compared to democrat attempts to spark a demographic shift.

Anonymous said...

"In a word: decline. In three words: Sorry ass decline."

Somebody needs a nap.

Anonymous said...

The Soviet Union created the first artificial satellite of the Earth, sent the first man into space. And the first dog before that and the first woman after that. The Soviet Union sent the first long-term missions into space - some cosmonauts spent more than a year in orbit at a time when the US was only able to do a few weeks. The US had only one significant first in space - the first manned landing on the moon. It's pretty comical to interpret that as an OVERALL win.


Anonymous said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/20/want-a-global-economic-boom-open-the-borders/


Okay, let's start with Israel.

The funny thing is... the borders are open already!! EU and US are not suffering from lack of immigrants, legal and illegal from the Third World.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, the Soviet Union was socially conservative. Its defeat was a victory for leftism - thievery, feminism, gay rights, criminality, sexual permissiveness, third-world immigration into Russia, etc. If you want to wrap yourself up in that banner, if you want to be proud of that, go ahead.

Perhaps not everyone has the capacity to see beyond labels.

Anonymous said...

"We won the Space Race"

Come on, Steve! Objectively, Space Race was a tie. Russians had a long string of firsts that can't be discounted: satellite, man, woman, space walk, space station, sample return from the Moon, probe on Mars.

To this, Americans had first Venus probe, humans on the Moon, shuttle, Hubble telescope and amazing long range probes.

Safety-wise, it's a tie too. Russians had disastrous early years while Americans completely blew it late with shuttles.

pat said...

The major points of Wolfe's book were to me - first just how very dangerous it was to be a test pilot, and secondly the Mercury Seven were no where near as straight arrow as they were depicted in the press.

But Armstrong wasn't in that first batch. It seems to me that he was chosen as an exemplar of of Republican Party style virtues.

Democrats prefer bad boys (and girls). Bill Clinton was a fine politician but a terribel person. He was as the Brits say "bad with women". He also was loose with the truth and causually corrupt. None of that hurt his popularity with his Democratic Party base.

Nero and Caligula wre also popular, at least at first, with the public. An honest, virtuous and dignified hero like Neil Armstrong may not be the people's choice.

The Democrats would probably have preferred someone like Charlie Sheen (or even Lindsey Lohan) for their first man on the moon. I wonder if anyone in the blogosphere actually knows? Neil Armstrong was so colorless. Was there a program to select extremely "safe" astronauts. Were all of Armstrong's colleagues registerd Republicans?

The media is full of stories about what Armstrong really meant to say with that first step. I remember at the time Bill Cosby speculated that with his first step to the surface he would scream "Coca-Cola" and be forever rich as well as famous. But that was not to be. Too colorful.

Albertosaurus

Matthew said...

Anonymous 3:25 AM:

You are right about the decline part, wrong about Reagan and Republicans being mostly to blame.

In reality the decline began with Lyndon Johnson, the Great Society, the activist judiciary, and the 1965 Immigration Act pushed by Emanuel Celler and Ted Kennedy.

Great Society rewarded people for sitting on their asses. It lead to a 70%+ illegitimacy rate among blacks, and 30% among whites.

Judges took away the power of the government and the people to do necessary if unpleasant things, like enforce the borders. Forced integration desroyed American cities. Eisenhower could never get away with Operation Wetback today. Even as late as the '40s the judiciary was practical enough to allow potentially necessary if undesireable acts, like Japanese internment during WW2.

And immigration turned America into a nation with no sense of shared history and with no common culture but that dictated by the lowest common denominator "free market."

You could even give Franklin D. Roosevelt a little credit for a non-privatized social security scheme. The surplus from SSA taxes was for decades used to fund the bloated federal state.

Further back, you could blame the wave of Eastern European immigrants whose children took over and radicalized the American higher education system.

The debt? Future Americans, in a USA that will effectively be a part of Latin America, will simply inflate it away. Best of luck getting repaid.

jody said...

do the moon landing hoax guys think NASA dropped that huge robot on mars last week, or is that fake too?

conspiracy competition!

moon landing hoax guys who are also certain no NASA robots ever landed on mars,

versus:

curiosity conspiracy guys who are certain the robot found UFOs on mars but NASA is trying to keep it secret.

in the words of mortal kombat...FIGHT!

Whiskey said...

Except the Space Race was really about dominating the satellite launching and control area. Seizing the high ground to put more and better satellites to provide surprise-proof surveillance of the other side. Since each side had roughly the same surveillance capabilities, there was no threat of a Pearl Harbor with nukes that would deliver a knock-out blow.

The Moon Race was merely a sideshow, like the Italian Campaign in WWII, to the main event which was the launching and maintenance of satellites in near-Earth orbit.

After all, on the eve of the first Apollo mission to the Moon, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the SCLC marched with tens of thousands of (mostly Black) people to demand the launch be scrapped and the space program dismantled so the money could be spent on welfare (for Black people). That view had considerable sentiment among elites and still does today.

In the meantime, the Pentagon's Space Plane X (a robotic drone) spent a YEAR in space orbiting the Earth in near-Earth orbit before landing recently.

Mr. Anon said...

Going to the moon was an incredible feat. And NASA made the right choice in choosing Neil Armstrong to be the first. In addition to being a steely-nerved pilot, he was humble and unassuming, and comported himself with dignity, not cheapening the event in vain attempts to gratify his ego.

Still, though a fantastic stunt, it was just that......a stunt. It's on a par with Amundsen reaching the South Pole or Hillary climbing Mt. Everest, not with Columbus crossing the Atlantic. It does not lead anywhere, nor does it ultimately signify much.

DirkY said...

I'm not so sure we won the space race. The moon race, sure. But the Soviets beat us in many other ways, first object, first man, first woman, first space station.

DirkY said...

I'd like to see more streets and other things named after Armstrong. So much of California is named after random Californio landholders, early speculators, aand civil war generals.

Anonymous said...

the trillions in debt the Republican cowboys starting with Reagan spent in the name of American exceptionalism


You know nothing about America. The country is in debt - as are all the other Western countries - but this has nothing to do with Reagan or any other "American cowboys". If the blame had to be put on anyone I'd put it on Bismark, the creator of the modern social welfare state.

RS said...

> Rather than blow up the world, each side picked their best and bravest to attempt the most awe-inspiring feat in human history to show the rest of the world whose system deserved to win.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Anonymous said...

As of 2012, the country remains the world's largest manufacturer, representing a fifth of the global manufacturing output.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_United_States

THE SKY IS FALLING! WE DON'T MAKE AS MANY TOYS AS BEFORE!

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 8/26/12 3:25 AM

The "system" that won the space race, was rapidly shut down and now no longer exists.

Anonymous said...

America didn't win the cold war. The USSR lost by default. I would argue the Soviets never fully recovered from their WW2 losses and damages.

Mr X said...

If the US really won the Cold War, and Im not really sure it did, it was a Pyrrhic victory. Come to think of it, also the Space Race was. There hasn t been a lot of evolution since the 70s. Curiosity Rover is more technologically advanced than the Viking, sure, but the idea is the same. We should have colonies in Mars, by now. Maybe one day we will, in a new kind of White Flight.

Tony said...

Yeah we won the space race and the cold war, but we lost our country.

Anonymous said...

Jody --

No, unmanned flights to the moon aren't that difficult -- the Russians had done it before the 1950s were out with Luna-2.

*Manned* flights out of low earth orbit are, with today's and even foreseeable technology, impossible, which is why they've never been done, or even attempted. They certainly weren't possible with 1960s tech, and most likely won't be with 2060s tech.

Except for the six Apollo missions, the furthest from the Earth's surface any human has gone was Gemini 11, which went 850 miles up in Sept. 1996.

Then we suddenly not only broke that (by 200,000 miles), but did it six times, and tacked on the incredible task of landing men on the moon and bringing them back safely. Didn't happen.

The Apollo missions were a prime example of Plato's "noble lie" concept, where leaders must lie to their subjects for their own benefit. In this case, to intimidate and flex muscles to our Cold War rival by faking a success far away.

The dog that didn't bark, literally: why hasn't any other country tried to send men past 850 miles up since we supposedly did it 43 years ago? 850 miles is nothing -- about the distance from New York to Chicago. Yet no one has even tried it. Why not?

Because you're exposed to massive radiation if you go any higher, that same radiation the ozone layer protects us from. Both us and the Russian sent chimps and dogs up and they all came back fried.

I love reading the news clips every 5 years that the current present proposes we "go back to the moon," always 5 years in the future.

Going to the moon: the only technological achievement man could accomplish 40 years ago, but not now.

Anonymous said...

the first woman after that.

At least NASA sent up women who could perform their tasks in space unlike Valentina Tereshkova.

Anonymous said...

We sent the wrong people to the moon.

Ron Woo said...


Albertosaurus said:

"The Democrats would probably have preferred someone like Charlie Sheen (or even Lindsey Lohan) for their first man on the moon."

Really? The Democrats would have preferred a profligate sleaze riddled with VD or an erstwhile Hollywood debutante turned drug-addled train wreck to be their first person on the moon?

I have my reservations about the Democrat party but don't you think this is just a little far-fetched?

DaveinHackensack said...

We elected a black President -- who was also the first to embrace gay marriage. That's this era's moon landing.

In the decades since the moon landing we've measured national greatness more by social inclusion than by bravura technical achievement.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Going to the moon: the only technological achievement man could accomplish 40 years ago, but not now."

There are other technological achievements from 40+ years ago we don't do now: the Concorde first flew in 1969. It doesn't fly now, and there are no supersonic commercial jets. Does that mean the technology doesn't exist for one? No. There's just not a market for it.

Anonymous said...

Going to the moon: the only technological achievement man could accomplish 40 years ago, but not now.
---------------------------------
This one has always bugged me.

Also, is it true all astronauts who walked on the moon did so while Nixon was president?

not a hacker said...

1969 ... swan-song of the ... era of the white male being pretty much unchallenged at the top

Aw c'mon. What if we look at 1980? While women had been in the workplace for awhile, they weren't in top positions, there was no aggressive AA in hiring or promotion, and "disparate impact" hadn't made its appearance in the courts yet. Even complaints of the 'glass ceiling' were still a few years away. Not only were white men not demonized or ridiculed in media, but it hadn't even started yet in academia, save perhaps for Chomsky, and it would be a further 8 yrs. before we heard the phrase "dead white males," as the girls' complaint against having to read male authors. Hell, English departments were still assigning Ford Madox Ford.

Anonymous said...

"There are other technological achievements from 40+ years ago we don't do now: the Concorde first flew in 1969. It doesn't fly now, and there are no supersonic commercial jets."

I'm sure that various militaries fly supersonic jets, so it's not the same. An achievement wasn't abandoned here Greco-Roman style. But with manned space flight one was.

JSM said...

"At least NASA sent up women who could perform their tasks in space unlike Valentina Tereshkova."

Oh, yeah? The incompetence of this dark skinned Indian diversitess was the cause for the only shuttle mission which more resembled a Keystone Kops comedy than a Heroic Adventure:

Kalpana Chawla was the grappling arm operator on STS-87, charged with retrieving the Spartan solar satellite. Insufficient visuospacial intelligence caused this much-practiced ostensible professional to, rather than gain purchase, bump into it with the claw end of the arm, predictably sending the satellite spinning off into the void.


After days of the shuttle pilot repeatedly chasing down the satellite and giving the incompetent boobette multiple attempts to catch hold -- with her only increasing its tumble on every try -- the boys on board finally suited up for spacewalk and went outside and manually grabbed it.

NASA graciously decided to blame the grappling arm.

alonzo portfolio said...

We should have colonies in Mars
by now.


Something only a gadget geek could say. No, what we should have, as the proper dividend for winning the Cold War, is a society thoroughly disabused of the romance of top-down planning. Instead we have nearly the opposite, with every teacher at every level still in love with the Project. If there's any proof that our side actually lost, this is it.

Anonymous said...

"I would argue the Soviets never fully recovered from their WW2 losses and damages."

I would argue the Russians never fully recovered from the Russian Revolution. The Russian economy was growing rapidly before the First World War, but the Revolution and the civil war set it back enormously. True, the early Five Year plans led to rapid expansion of some economic sectors (at a certain human cost, some say!), but it's not hard to imagine a non-revolutionary Russia outpacing the USSR's actual performance.

The autocracy would have ended eventually, likely succeeded by an democratic authoritarianism (with or without the Tsar as figurehead) not so different from Putinism.

Cennbeorc

eah said...

A fine, soft-spoken, publicity-shy man, whom I had the pleasure to meet once. He'll be replaced by dozens of Mexicans, Asians, Indians, etc -- what have you. The country that put Armstrong on the moon does not exist anymore.

Anonymous said...

"In the decades since the moon landing we've measured national greatness more by social inclusion than by bravura technical achievement."

In which case, the record is very mixed. In the American black community, for example, it's hard to say whether the years since 1969 have, on the whole, seen progress or regress. Perhaps it's been progress for the better-off and regress for worse-off - nothing to brag about in other words. It's obvious that far more progress was made in the previous 43 years, i.e., from 1926 to 1969.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

well if you are considering first woman in space, then consider the first lesbian too.
is the spot for first gay in space still open?

Rev. Right said...

Whiskey said...
"After all, on the eve of the first Apollo mission to the Moon, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the SCLC marched with tens of thousands of (mostly Black) people to demand the launch be scrapped and the space program dismantled so the money could be spent on welfare (for Black people). That view had considerable sentiment among elites and still does today."

At least among the one elite that matters, President Obama, who promptly killed most of the manned space program and appointed a NASA chief who said their foremost mission was "to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering".

What finally killed the Apollo program in the mid-70's was precisely the sentiment expressed by Rev. Abernathy. Just look around today at what we got for our money.

And to all the naysayers above, putting a man on the moon was just about coolest thing ever. RIP Neil Armstrong.

Sam said...

A thousand years from now, when people live on the Moon, the history books will note a few people from the 20th century

Armstrong
Gagarin
Wright Brothers
Einstein

Anonymous said...

Except for the six Apollo missions, the furthest from the Earth's surface any human has gone was Gemini 11, which went 850 miles up in Sept. 1996.

Then we suddenly not only broke that (by 200,000 miles), but did it six times, and tacked on the incredible task of landing men on the moon and bringing them back safely. Didn't happen.




Then it's a good thing the telescope was not invented until after 1969, or the Russians might have noticed that Apollo 11 was not where we said it was!

There's no idea so kooky that some people won't believe it.

JustAClown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The Armstrong clan of Scotland has hogged the news this week: first Lance, now Neil.

Anonymous said...

Yuri Gagarin was as much a hero as Armstrong, and I hope they have a chance to chat in the next world

Neither Armstrong nor Gagarin were Christians (or Muslims). So they didn't believe in the irrational christian/muslim concepts of bodily resurrection after death and the "next world".

tenneby said...

I'd like to see more streets and other things named after Armstrong.

Perhaps a hockey trophy?

I really like that they chose to honor him with this trophy. The KHL also named their four divisions after four men who had helped promote and grow hockey in Russia. The NHL used to honor some people like that also but threw it away in an attempt to be more "cool" and "modern".

Wetard said...

We're all winners!

Indiana Jefferson said...

"Yuri Gagarin was as much a hero as Armstrong, and I hope they have a chance to chat in the next world"


Might not go so well:
Yuri: Привет, меня зовут Юрий
Neil: What??
Yuri:Я сказал: "Привет, меня зовут Юрий"
Neil: Look,buddy,its bad enough we're dead, but you can at least speak English. We did win the cold war, after all.
Yuri:Я пытался быть дружелюбным, но ваш тон тестирование моего терпения ...
Neil: Die again, commie! (Begins to take off his flight jacket)
Yuri: Подготовьтесь, чтобы получить космонавт ногу ваши избалованные империалистической задницу, капиталистическая сволочь! (Takes off his helmet and tosses it carelessly in the corner)

Anonymous said...

Double nostalgia:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYGzfczhrEQ

Anonymous said...


From the trenches of once-working class school....

I remember when I was in high school how the both boys and girls were transfixed by what Armstrong and all the NASA people had accomplished.

A few years later, after I had returned to the classroom as a teacher, I recall how it wasn't simply the boys, but also many bright girls who said they wanted to do "what the astronauts did." So, okay, none of those girls became pilots, although some attended summer space camp in Houston, and several of them did indeed major in the sciences and engineering and went on to attain professional success.

Decades later, I rarely heard a student, boy or girl, express any interest in aspiring to a field represented by some hero, with the field of sports the only exception.

All these things had changed: my school now had a different, demographic; kids had grown dismissive of the adult world and adult accomplishments; kids were surly, goal-less; video games and sports were the interests of the bmost boys; getting a boyfriend who was somewhat nice to her was the major goal of a girl.

Anonymous said...

Indiana Jefferson,

I could tell that you put that stuff through Google Translate or another machine translation program right away. These programs invariably produce ungrammatical stuff. The human translator's craft is safe, sound and has a bright future. I wish I could say the same about the astronauts' work.

Anonymous said...


One thousand years from now, kooks will be running around claiming that there was once a race of magicians living on the Earth who were able to fly, shoot fire out of magic wands and even go to the moon. These magicians were human-like but different. They had pale skin and strange hair. They built enormous cities and took care of everybody on Earth with their magic, but they grew arrogant. Nobody knows how they went away, but for some reason they disappeared.

Nobody will believe this of course.

Anonymous said...

Its funny, one of the best panegyrics penned about the space race was written by the frothing British lefty songwriter Billy Bragg.

The Space Race Is Over lyrics
By Billy Bragg

When I was young I told my mum
I’m going to walk on the moon someday
Armstrong and aldrin spoke to me
From houston and cape kennedy
And I watched the eagle landing
On a night when the moon was full
And as it tugged at the tides, I knew deep inside
I too could feel it’s pull

I lay in my bed and dreamed I walked
On the sea of tranquillity
I knew that someday soon we’d all sail to the moon
On the high tide of technology
But the dreams have all been taken
And the window seats taken too
And 2001 has almost come and gone
What am I supposed to do?

Now that the space race is over
It’s been and it’s gone and I’ll never get to the moon
Because the space race is over
And I can’t help but feel we’ve all grown up too soon

Now my dreams have all been shattered
And my wings are tattered too
And I can still fly but not half as high
As once I wanted to

Now that the space race is over
It’s been and it’s gone and I’ll never get to the moon
Because the space race is over
And I can’t help but feel we’ve all grown up too soon

My son and I stand beneath the great night sky
And gaze up in wonder
I tell him the tale of apollo and he says
"why did they ever go? "
It may look like some empty gesture
To go all that way just to come back
But don’t offer me a place out in cyberspace
Cos where in the hell’s that at?

Now that the space race is over
It’s been and it’s gone and I’ll never get out of my room
Because the space race is over
And I can’t help but feel we’re all just going nowhere

Anonymous said...

The Moon race changed the world. You wouldn't think it didn't if you were there... Just about anyone who had/has ex-V2s or the like could put something in orbit if they try hard enough. (The Iranians have put a satellite in orbit.)

The race to the Moon was important because it required rapidly building a new technology base that nobody yet knew how to do. It was very important that it was an openly declared goal, a gauntlet thrown down as a public challenge. "Some of you are thinking putting a satellite or a man in orbit shows the USSR is ahead of the US. Well, we're going to the moon in a decade. Any nation that's thinking they're better than us can try to get there first." It was a public duel, like Steve suggests. The slap across the face.

And the Soviets did try, and in ways that were necessarily public (the Zond circumlunar missions). You can see their landers and other hardware in Russian museums today.

The across-the-board failure of the Soviet's manned moon program had to contribute to their leader's future caution and, perhaps more important, the Soviet military's thinking. The unbroken string of failures of the N1 moon rocket was just one in a long list of failures, failures ultimately likely due to their economy only being able to support an effort about one tenth the economic size of the US effort. It got them to realizing, for real, they were the technical underdog.

There were casualties on both sides. Probably even today a total accounting of all the test pilots, astronaut trainees, and human test subjects who died is unknown. Here's a picture of the remains of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in 1967, who died during Soyuz-1 reentry. Helps puts the human cost, investment, and commitment by both sides in perspective.

NASA knew about the radiation hazard and simply chanced it, assuming they could catch things in time and pull it off (sort of similar to the pure low-pressure oxygen system, which killed the Apollo 1 crew). With data analyzed in retrospect, I think one or two of the Apollo missions might have received lethal doses of radiation due to solar flares, if the timing had been a little different. But they lucked out. I'm under the impression this wasn't as big a worry in the beginning as it was by the end, as people realized it.

Armstrong's left a medallion on the moon with that names of Gargarin (died in a plane crash) and Komarov and the Apollo-1 crew. Apollo 15 left a small plaque with 14 names.

The scientific effect, decades later, was probably bigger than expected. A lot of moon rocks (was it something like 45 pounds?) were brought back and analyzed at labs all over the world. The result was surprising and suggests a collision (which might be a freak event) very early in the earth's history likely formed the moon... caused a lot of theories to be reworked, work that is still ongoing with implications for questions such as "are we alone in the universe?".

The laser reflectors are still there, still being used, still hit by lasers fired through telescopes on earth. Satellites orbiting the moon can still photograph the landers and see the paths of the moonwalks... Ridicule is too weak a word for those who think all that can be faked.

And Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, are heroes for all time, strange and unseemly as that may sound to fickle modern sensibilities. Such sensibilities pass.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

The Soviet Union created the first artificial satellite of the Earth, sent the first man into space. And the first dog before that and the first woman after that. The Soviet Union sent the first long-term missions into space - some cosmonauts spent more than a year in orbit at a time when the US was only able to do a few weeks. The US had only one significant first in space - the first manned landing on the moon. It's pretty comical to interpret that as an OVERALL win."

Not if you consider that our first consisted of landing....on the f**king Moon! That pretty well beats all the others.

Also, you are only considering manned missions (which is fair enough if we are talking about the "space race"). But the US has done plenty of other things in unmanned space exploration that the Russians have not even attempted: first large optical telescope in space (Hubble), second large optical telescope in space (James Webb - if it ever flies), first X-ray telescope in space. The US also have launched probes to Mercury (I don't know if the Russians have done that), Pluto (that they have not), several orbiters and landers to Mars, and one probe that mapped the surface of Venus, as well as four probes to the outer planets, a couple of which are still sending back telemetry, even as they approach the edge of the Kuiper belt.

Nothing against the Russians - they did a fine job - but they haven't come anywhere close to the US in space exploration.

Anonymous said...

If they celebrate one single man to represent the accomplishment of putting a man on the moon, Von Braun is a much better choice than Armstrong. Armstrong was a highly accomplished man and he and his fellow astronauts had a lot of guts, but he was very replaceable. It was WVB who got us there.

System Shock 2 pays the correct homage, one of the ships is named the Von Braun.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

*Manned* flights out of low earth orbit are, with today's and even foreseeable technology, impossible, which is why they've never been done, or even attempted."

This assertion of yours is baseless, wrong, and idiotic. How is it "impossible"?

"They certainly weren't possible with 1960s tech, and most likely won't be with 2060s tech."

Another groundless assertion, based only on your ignorance.

"Except for the six Apollo missions, the furthest from the Earth's surface any human has gone was Gemini 11, which went 850 miles up in Sept. 1996.

Then we suddenly not only broke that (by 200,000 miles), but did it six times, and tacked on the incredible task of landing men on the moon and bringing them back safely. Didn't happen.

The dog that didn't bark, literally: why hasn't any other country tried to send men past 850 miles up since we supposedly did it 43 years ago?"

Because the only reason to do it, is to do it first. There's no prize for coming in second.

"....850 miles is nothing -- about the distance from New York to Chicago. Yet no one has even tried it. Why not?"

Evidently you know nothing about gravity, and you are unaware that space is a vacuum. 850 miles up and out of the atmosphere is not the same as 850 miles across the surface of the Earth.

"Because you're exposed to massive radiation if you go any higher, that same radiation the ozone layer protects us from."

The ozone layer protects us from UV, which is also stopped by a thin sheet of Aluminum, like the kind that space-craft are made of.

"Both us and the Russian sent chimps and dogs up and they all came back fried."

No, the animals that we sent up came back fine.

You are an ignoramus and a nitwit.

Anonymous said...

Why must we always find ways to say Tom Wolfe was brilliant?

Anonymous said...

>>A fine, soft-spoken, publicity-shy man, whom I had the pleasure to meet once. He'll be replaced by dozens of Mexicans, Asians, Indians, etc -- what have you. The country that put Armstrong on the moon does not exist anymore.


The head of the recently succesful Mars Landing program and NASA's badass Jet Propulsion Lab is Firouz Naderi, an Iranian-American. The crucial parachute that enabled the landing was devised by Anita Sengupta, an Indian-American.

Anonymous said...

But you were booted out of Vietnam,

A Russian historian who wrote a history of the Cold War after the fall of the Soviet Union claims that it was hubris after Vietnam that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. The Soviets thought the model worked and started directly fighting in wars in what, Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and supporting wars in other places, Cambodia, Mozambique, Nicaragua... a long list. Downright expensive supporting Soviet and Cuban troops in the far side of Africa, broke their military... BTW, someone give those South Africans at least a medal for taking it on the chin in the Cold War at this stage directly battling the Soviets/Cubans for no thanks...

A big lesson the US learned from Vietnam is that 3rd world mercenary armies are really, really cheap, just send money sotto voce and all (see experience in Laos and El Salvador, maybe Afghanistan...).

The US was probably doomed to some sort of fight in Vietnam. And if not in Vietnam, somewhere else, it didn't really matter where. The rumble was on.

If not for the Vietnam war you probably wouldn't have the resounding economic success of the "Asian Tigers". That war was good for some local economies... Given their current status in the world economy, perhaps the Vietnam war was more than a limited success.

You can win the wars and still lose the conflict. Did the Romans teach Hannibal that?


...gave away your manufacturing base ("Designed in California", indeed),

One wonders if this started out as a Cold War weapon. "Yes, ChiCom friends, those Russians will just send you weapons, we can send you jobs, including jobs with weapons-type technology, now whose side are you on?" Maybe Kissinger and Nixon cared about those jobs, or maybe they just kicked the can. Perhaps someone should adjust to new realities. Such adjustments can be made.

the curent American generation will be definitively worse off than the previous,

Yes. If the current generation wants things to change, they will have to do something about it, like stop spending that makes them poor. If not, you are right. Economic decline due to overspending is the fate of most empires, even soft empires. It's kind of a grand experiment to see if a population can vote themselves to avoid this fate. Maybe not.

But things can change fast. The Japanese apparently didn't think much of the US before WWII.


In a relatively recent documentary on the Apollo astronauts (I think it was In the Shadow of the Moon), one of the astronauts briefly discusses the Apollo program and Vietnam. He felt he let down his buddies because he avoided "his war" in Vietnam, but they said something to the effect that he was fighting his own, important, war. Just so.

The Cold War was such a big thing that dominated the last century that we can hardly see it for all it's pieces. At some future time when historians with huge data mining computers get a grip on it all, it seems very unlikely that the Apollo program won't be one of it's most important campaigns.

Steve Sailer said...

"Why must we always find ways to say Tom Wolfe was brilliant?"

Good point. I should have just stolen Wolfe's insight and passed it off as my own.

Anonymous said...

"The country that put Armstrong on the moon does not exist anymore."

The head of the recently succesful Mars Landing program and NASA's badass Jet Propulsion Lab is Firouz Naderi, an Iranian-American. The crucial parachute that enabled the landing was devised by Anita Sengupta, an Indian-American.



Sadly, the original commentator is correct. Today, due to absolute adherence of the government and government agencies such as NASA to pro-diversity and pro-affirmative action policies/propaganda (all those great smiling faces on television from around the world working for the US government, and such), you can never be sure if people such as you cite are where they are because of merit (that is, they are the greatest in the world (but in a country of 300 million do we really need to search the whole world?)) or just because AA put them there. You just can never be sure, like you were in Armstrong's day. Today, you always suspect AA, even for people with no traditional role in the US, simply because the government's AA program is apparently desperate to see successful non-whites.

In cynical moments, you have to wonder if this wasn't also a Cold War weapon, in particular aimed at 3rd world elites. Look, world! You guys can all get rich here in the US! Learn the American Dream! Live the American Dream! Tell all your friends back home! You really want the US to conquer the world because we'll all be one happy family! The last thing you want to do is get too friendly with those no-good commie thugs, they want to steal your stuff!

An easy sell. And the 3rd world folks who can take advantage of this often seem to be the most hopeful that the US will run the world, their homeland, whatever, straighten things out back there, reinstate them, and so on. And incidently make them rich, rich, rich comparatively! Move up from an elite in a small pond to an elite in the world! It is nice to be privileged. And no way are they going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I probably don't have all the details right, but you can see it's gotten more complicated.

Anonymous said...

In May this year, the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia secured almost an hour of the former astronaut's time to discuss his 1969 expedition.

http://thebottomline.cpaaustralia.com.au/#episode4

Anonymous said...

"Then we suddenly not only broke that (by 200,000 miles), but did it six times, and tacked on the incredible task of landing men on the moon and bringing them back safely. Didn't happen."

If you're trying to lay out the case for why it didn't really happen, then at least get right the number of trips we made. We made 9 trips to the moon, including apollo 8 and Apollo 10.
Apollos 11-17 all touched down, or were meant to.

Anonymous said...

If not for the Vietnam war you probably wouldn't have the resounding economic success of the "Asian Tigers". That war was good for some local economies...

The real credit must go to Pol Pot for showing Asia the real face of communism. Until then, it was the romantic antidote to Western imperialism. Until then, tiger economies could not exist (except for Japan) because most of east and southest Asia was gripped by communist-started civil wars.

Pol Pot scared Asia straight, so to speak, and took the romantic wind out of communism. Liberation from Imperialism meant millions of workers and peasants "liberated" from life.

Anonymous said...

The Neil Armstrong interview.

Anonymous said...

"Come on, Steve! Objectively, Space Race was a tie. Russians:sample return from the Moon, probe on Mars.

To this, Americans: had first Venus probe,"

Wut?

The Venus landers were russian(and all of them broke in some bizarre way), the sample return, and mars probes crashed. Currently America is the undisputed Mars Champion.

Anonymous said...

"
System Shock 2 pays the correct homage, one of the ships is named the Von Braun. "

here's an article on his vision of the future

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/paleofuture/2012/07/wernher-von-brauns-martian-chronicles/

Auntie Analogue said...

The public face of the space program was cover for the military - the serious defense - side of the space race to place spy, secure voice, and datalink communications (and later, the GPS) satellites into orbit (the USSR's surveillance and communications satellites were almost all dismal ultra-low-tech failures). Tom Wolfe got it half right: NASA's manned missions were the U.S.'s version of Rome's gladiatorial spectaculars - the civilian contracts for the space hardware formed the "panis" and the three-network TV coverage of the manned missions formed the "circenses" - which ginned up public support and revenue to pay for the serious, military side of the space race.

So from the space program all the mil-industry-complex public trough grazers got fat contracts, and you and I got Tang.

Nuch later, we hoi polloi got GPS, which most of us use about as much as we drink Tang; except, of course, when GPS is used against us in our "personal devices" by Leviathan's surveilling powers-that-be: those same powers that are now ramping up to deploy spy drones over us right here in the Land of the - ummm - Free (and not to keep ICE's peepers on our open border either).

None of that detracts from Neil Armstrong's rightful place in the pantheon of America's technological meritocrat decisive action heroes, right up there with Orville and Wilbur Wright and Charles Lindbergh. But at least the Wrights succeeded on their own dime, and Lindbergh achieved his feat with minimal technology (even for his day, his aircraft and its equipment were bare bones) and on private investor dollars. Moreover, before Lindy won the Orteig Prize no politician or pundit laid any stress on potential consequences of Lindbergh failing to reach Paris - which was the direct opposite of the massive, epochal wager of national prestige that JFK laid on the line with his "before the decade is out" moon program imperative. There had been many failures to fly the New York to Paris prize route and none of the failures impacted the prestige of any of the nations of the aviators who failed - but failures in the space program were publicized as huge prestige nail-biters by domestic proponents and naysayers, and as exemplary national embarrassments by foreign propagandists (the Russkies, of course, never let on that their space program had mismanaged to kill a few of their cosmonauts - which was par for the course for a series of regimes whose top dogs never admitted how many millions of their own class-struggle-exempted workers they'd sentenced to zekhood or murdered).

As technology grew more complex and became more tightly wedded to defense projects, government simply took over and used public funds to pay for tech programs - for many of which private industry lacked incentive and instead found its incentive in lucrative "military-industrial complex" public-funding of contracts to do R&D, design, testing, and implementation under the aegis of NASA, DARPA, NOAA, "black projects" and other government monstrosities thick with careerist bureaucrats, active duty military project managers, and good-old-boy network retired military officer consultants who became skilled at playing their kabuki parts for the amusement of Congress's appropriations panjandrums and the "access"-glutted punditocracy. You simply cannot imagine the Wrights or Lindbergh bowing and scraping so importunately before mere politicians (Lindbergh especially loathed Franklin Roosevelt).

Most of all, Neil Armstrong was among the last of the greatest American breed of self-possessed, soundly educated, thoroughly trained, deeply experienced. competent, industrious, rational, cool-headed, admirable - and modest - men. So, Neil Armstrong, to quote John Wayne: "You did good, Pilgrim." Rest in Peace.

Anonymous said...

'In May this year, the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia secured almost an hour of the former astronaut's time to discuss his 1969 expedition'

The interview was conducted last year.

Anonymous said...

One problem with the Space Race is that it over glorified the astronauts instead of the engineers who remained faceless for the most part.

Anonymous said...

Graffiti seen on a saloon wall (college neighborhood) circa 1987:

If they can send a man to the moon, why can't they send them all there?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

I know it sounds nutty, but I have my lingering doubts that it actually happened given 1960s technology."

The technology of rocketry was not significantly different in the 1960s then it is today. An enormous amount of progress was made from the 1940s through the 1960s; not nearly so much after that.

Anonymous said...

The space race benefitted from disparate impact craters.

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe got it half right: NASA's manned missions were the U.S.'s version of Rome's gladiatorial spectaculars

I thought pro sports and public schools where the U.S.'s version of Rome's hack-slash-fests.

Anonymous said...

The technology of rocketry was not significantly different in the 1960s then it is today. An enormous amount of progress was made from the 1940s through the 1960s; not nearly so much after that.

Space travel requires not so much high technology as it requires high energy. Chemical fuels, even liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, go only so far. To really open up the solar system efficiently and inexpensively requires nuclear power. Imagine flying from Earth to Mars in less than a week! Also think of the astronauts being exposed to only a week's worth of radiation in space rather than seven months, all thanks to nuclear power. But try telling that to nucleophobes.

Anonymous said...

"Lest we forget around 1969, the USA was at the whitest it had ever been or ever will be, also the USA was undisputed top-dog industrially, militarily, economically..."

And, 1969 roughly corresponds with Hubbert's Peak (for domestic oil production) after which we became increasingly dependent on foreign supplies. How much oil went into just Mercury-thru-Apollo, etc?

Anonymous said...

God, it must kill a lot of you guys that Mars Curiosity control room featured women, an old hippie from Santa Cruz, some rockabilly guy, and a hunky Iranian dude with a mohawk.

josh said...

Re "If they can send a man to the moon why cant they send them all there?" Aww the poor lesbians. It cant be easy being around all those lovely young women and knowing that men will get them ALL. Ha ha ha.

Anonymous said...

God, it must kill a lot of you guys that Mars Curiosity control room featured women, an old hippie from Santa Cruz, some rockabilly guy, and a hunky Iranian dude with a mohawk.

I for one laaugh at the scaarcity of stoodent atleets hired under AA.

Anonymous said...

"The head of the recently succesful Mars Landing program and NASA's badass Jet Propulsion Lab is Firouz Naderi, an Iranian-American. The crucial parachute that enabled the landing was devised by Anita Sengupta, an Indian-American."

The Asian Century.

Baba said...

Its cool for cool sake, but frankly, not spending money on the space program is one wise thing Obama did. America doesn't do things for the right reasons anymore.

When the space race occurred, a man on the moon wasn't done to be cool, it was done to psychologically best the Soviets in front of the world, and to develop the technology to compete with and stay ahead of them. At the time, people really thought the Soviet Union was a powerhouse (and in some ways it was as they allocated massive amounts of GDP towards military, etc. at the expense of other more basic things).

The cold war aggressor of today, China is far behind us technologically in space.

We just spent billions for the rover, for what, some cool pictures?

I agree they look the sh*t, but is it really worth billions? Nor does it matter the reply that,"yes, but the government spends billions in other ways that are less productive". So then they should also shut down those as well.

The fact is, if we are doing it, it should be for a purpose like mining a rare earth metal (if it is profitable after deducting the cost) or to set up a colony, etc. But America no longer has the balls to be a colonizer or do things for a purpose instead of noblesse oblige. If we haven't got the balls to do it for any other reason than a vague notion that it is to 'benefit mankind', or send pics that college kids can stick on their dorm room doors, or open the door for other countries to profit who have less cobwebs in the brain, then why bother to spend billions, esp. during a deep recession?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Space travel requires not so much high technology as it requires high energy. Chemical fuels, even liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, go only so far. To really open up the solar system efficiently and inexpensively requires nuclear power. Imagine flying from Earth to Mars in less than a week!"

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. What is really required for manned space-flight is not high energy, but high power and a high power-to-mass ratio. Nuclear systems are not very good at delivering that.

Anonymous said...

"I agree they look the sh*t, but is it really worth billions? Nor does it matter the reply that,"yes, but the government spends billions in other ways that are less productive". So then they should also shut down those as well. "

The pics are for the public to consume. And they are cool. But the rover will be analyzing the surface of Mars, and also has acted as a proof of concept for the technology. Curiosity rover is 10x the mass of the previous rovers, and required different technology.

You can't just go straight to colonization or even mineral extraction without proving the technology first.

And who knows what effect this will have. Revolutionary science usually takes the resources of a government. The space program is very minimal in terms of total cost, and is potentially a modern day Louisiana Purchase in terms of its future influence.

Cedric the Interloper said...

I'd rather pay a billion to some Cal Tech geeks to build and send out the Rover than pay the billion to cover the tab for illegals and incompetents.

Svigor said...

among much else, a single combat (e.g., David v. Goliath)

David vs Goliath is one of the worst examples to illustrate single combat. It's a better illustration of "he brought a knife to a gunfight," really.

Svigor said...

if the idea that all men are created equal was the underpinning of the US system, the eventual crumbling of the edifice was only a matter of time. A large proportion of the population still thinks that the magical institutions and laws of the United States can transform Mexicans into the sort of people who could send a man to the moon. Unfortunately, sending a man to the moon is the sort of job that Mexicans just won't do.

First of all, the DoI is not law. Second, no document is above selective interpretation:

DoI

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

(I should point out that the selective interpretation has become so bad that components of this sentence are now being used against one another: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are being trampled in the tendentious pursuit of "all men are created equal," despite the fact that the latter is but a description, and the former enumerated of Rights.)

Among the grievances against George:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

So, we have within the very same document a refutation of the idea that "all men are created equal" is tantamount to modern "anti-racism."

Anonymous said...

As a total space nerd at the time, I'm surprised I completely missed an Armstrong quote that now seems widely circulated on the Internet. Maybe others also haven't seen it...

“I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul ... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” - Neil Armstrong.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, this is my favorite obituary and tribute to Neil Armstrong out of the flood we've been weltered in since his death.