It is fitting that the Neil Armstrong movie First Man comes to theaters today–just a day after a Soyuz rocket failure leaves humankind with no reliable way to get a person into space. In just fifty years we have gone from the greatest accomplishment in human history, to settling for low-earth orbit flight, to having to pay the Russians to take us into space, to now being grounded. If Armstrong was still alive, I’m sure that he would be embarrassed by our regression in both technology and exploratory spirit.
For generations, man was an explorer. Our earliest ancestors wanted to know if something good to eat or someplace safe to stay was just over that next hill. We weren’t satisfied not knowing what lay on the other side of bodies of water. We climbed the tallest of mountains, we went to the deepest depths of the oceans. We not only got off the ground and flew, but we left the atmosphere and with the small steps of Neil Armstrong, we set foot on the next celestial body. And then we stopped.
We’ve talked about going further. We’ve sent satellites and probes to other planets and now to the very edge of our solar system. But we as humans haven’t gone along for the ride. We’ve grown content to let hi-resolution photos and data streams substitute for personal experience. As part of what will undoubtedly be a failed attempt to send tourists on a joyride around the Moon, Elon Musk says the capsule will be equipped with ultra-high-definition 3D cameras that will allow everyone back here on Earth to experience the trip in virtual reality–without ever leaving the couch.
There was a controversy a few weeks back after advanced screenings of First Man when fake patriots got all up in arms because the scene where Armstrong plants the American flag on the moon was left out of the movie. The star–Ryan Gosling–fanned the flames by saying that was done intentionally because going to the moon was not an “American achievement”.
While Gosling could not be more wrong about why the US is the only country to go to the moon, it’s probably best that the flag scene is not included–because the America that sent Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon 49-years ago is definitely not the America of today. That America was willing to take risks. That America was willing to–as President John F Kennedy so perfectly put it–“Do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. And because that America was willing to say “We are number one–and we are about to prove it”.
With the impending rise of Socialism here in America, we can forget about going back to the moon or Mars or anywhere else to advance the human species. There will be too many “economic injustices” here on Earth to consume all of our national resources. There will always be someone without food or without a home or without access to the internet that should get the money that would be needed for rockets. Or there will be people getting sick. Or somebody will have something else that not everyone else has and the Government will have to spend money to make sure that everyone is “equal”. And we will voluntarily leave the natural resources needed to power such machines in the ground because that is “better for the planet”.
Hollywood loves sequels. They could probably start production on the follow up flick called Last Man featuring the heroic tale of the final astronaut to abandon the International Space Station before it fell back to Earth from disrepair.