Thursday, July 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday - It Wasn't Supposed to End Like This

July 20 (or 21st, depending on which time zone you lived in) was the 47th anniversary of mankind's first steps on the moon by astronaut Neil Armstrong- unless you are someone like my father's father, who went to his grave thinking it was a Hollywood fabrication.

My personal memories, growing up in the Bronx? That day, July 20, I went with my Dad to see a space exhibit in midtown Manhattan - and late that night, we watched Neil Armstrong take his step on a flickering black and white TV picture in our Bronx apartment.

Who would have expected the space program would end (as far as I am concerned, it has ended) the way it did?  With a whimper? With the United States dependent on other countries to propel us into space?  It's true, NASA doesn't say the space program has ended.  Not publicly, anyway.

Now, also, there is Space X.

Is there hope?  We'll have to see.

In July of 2011, I wrote this blog post, and I would like to repeat it today.

Fly Me to the Moon....

I interrupt the normal programming of this blog to bring you this special announcement.

The United States space program ended today.

Today has left a large hole in my heart.  And perhaps one in our country's heart.

I was a child of the Space Race.  In October of 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched.  Ever hear of it? Or the Soviet Union?  Well...

The Soviet Union was a "union" of Russia and a number of other nearby countries.  Their government was "communist", committed to the destruction of the capitalist system - and our country.  Or, so we were told.  Those were scary times.  When I was a toddler, being called a Communist could be enough to cause someone to lose their job.  There were special congressional hearings.  Blacklists.

The Soviets had "The Bomb".   We and they fought what was called the "Cold War".  If they won and took us over, all would be lost.  The Soviets were totally evil- that is what I was taught, as a schoolchild growing up in the 1950's and early 60's.

When the Soviets launched the first satellite in October of 1957, our country was thrown into a panic.  We needed to get our children educated in the sciences, and quickly, so we could get into space with our satellite before the Communists took space over.   This drive accelerated even more quickly when the Soviets put the first man into space in 1961.

We as a country committed ourselves to reach the moon in a speech given by President Kennedy in May of 1961. 

50 years ago, we decided to go to the moon.  We would beat the Soviets there.  We knew they were trying to get there, too.

Competition is the heart of the capitalist system.

I saw some of the various launches in school.  Others, on our black and white TV at home.  First, we blasted one man into sub-orbit.  Then, one man into orbit.  Then, into many orbits.

And then, the Soviets took a walk in space. So we had to also.

To make a long story short, we made it to the moon first.  Several more missions got to the moon and then in the 1970's we totally changed direction.  We decided to have a program with partially disposable space crafts.  We haven't been to the moon since that decision and, in fact, no one else has been, either.

In the middle of all this, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.  Probably a lot of the urgency disappeared with the Soviets.  We no longer had an enemy to compete with.

And then we realized it was way too expensive for the government to keep up the space program.  Private industry would have to take over, and that is part of the reason for what happened today.  The entire story is complicated, and this is a very shallow telling of the tale.

Today, several generations know of the space program mainly for Tang, and freeze dried ice cream.  But, in reality, it enriched our lives in so many ways we can't even imagine - everything from MRI technology to cell phones (have you ever seen the first Star Trek series?) to - well, there is an entire NASA Spinoff website that explains this.

Think about this.  We won the space race, right?  And now -we won't have a way to get into space on our own, for now.  We will have to depend on....

The Russians.

Now, that's irony.

We can ask  "so who cares?  Why is it important to keep exploring space?  (No, the answer isn't going to be to fight the space aliens traveling right now to our planet to conquer us....but who knows, maybe they are.)  No, the answer is not about being able to resist our future space overlords.  (Or...just think of this nightmarish thought - terrorists launch a satellite....)

It has a lot to do with the human spirit.  Humans are explorers.  The drive is built into us.  In every generation are born people without fear (or maybe, people without common sense).  The wider our horizons, the wider our thinking.  Our acceptance of new ideas, our flexibility, our ability to roll with change, depends on this. 

Will we lose our spirit?  If we do, our country is lost.

I fear this has already happened to our country, and we must fight it.

I rarely write serious blog posts, but this is one of them.

Be it by government, or be it by private industry, we can't give up space.

After posting this, I read an awesome post on the subject.  I am linking to it, so you can read it too.  (This blog is no longer active, but she has a different blog, also worth reading.)

What are your memories, if any, of the space program?


  1. This felt like a lesson our of history. I have read about the race to capture space and honestly I feel you grew up in such exciting and wonderful times. It was an age of discovery and now we seem to have come to a stop , what's exciting now is an app on a phone but you had real things to be excited about..

    1. Our present times have their own excitement, but it is as if we have lost our national will. Our infrastructure is crumbling and we are more interested in movie stars and cat videos than getting out in the universe.

  2. It's yet another way our government has stopped funding research. The key to our (losing) position in global business and technology. But, these same politicians (that "afford" us this position) lament that we have too few choosing to enter STEM.

  3. This was quite a serious read, Alana, but emotional. Although, I have no particular memories of a Space program but we did watch and do today as well several documentaries and space specials on Discovery! :)

    Do take a look at this post: :)

  4. You're right about the Tang memories, LOL! Interesting post.

  5. Now they're focusing on Mars. NASA hopes to put a rover on the planet by 2020 or so...and they'll be able to gather detailed info. about what's on the planet! I can't imagine what watching the moon landing on TV must have been like.

  6. " fight the space aliens traveling right now to our planet to conquer us..."

    That's actually the plot of an excellent fantasy book from a fellow blogger. Worth the time if you get a chance and enjoy fantasy. (The evil aliens are part dragon, and... You've got to read it.)

    Have you see the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. Loved that. Most of my knowledge of the Apollo missions comes from that as I was too young to remember any of it. How young? Men were on the moon when I was born. (Apollo 15. Which tells you exactly how old I am.)

  7. I believe I was heading into 4th grade.
    Coffee is on

  8. I love reading about the history on your site and this is definitely a historical day!

  9. It is alarming that we have given up on space. No spacecraft development,no testing of new engines and only the private sector is trying to move forward. We need to invest more of space and far,far less on new weapon systems.

  10. I'm old enough to remember that moment of the first man on the moon. Many years later, I watched in horror as our state's "teacher in space" (Christa McAuliffe, teacher from Concord NH) and the entire crew died in the 1986 space shuttle explosion. I wonder if a new president, whoever ends up getting voted in, will renew the space program.


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