Kingdom of Fear: Looking Back at the Moon Landing
Perhaps part of the reason America seems so scared and angry today is because even our most cherished accomplishments, turn out to be not entirely what they were supposed to be. It is almost easy to understand why there are so many out there who believe that the Apollo missions were faked because, even at the time, they really didn’t make much sense. The country was coming apart at the seams over Vietnam, drugs, sex, civil rights, and the open assassinations of liberal luminaries like JFK, RFK, and MLK. Why spend all this money to send a bunch of guys to a rock in space?
The reality of it all is that the political will for the moon landings came from the Cold War, especially given the USSR’s early successes in the space-race. By the time the first lunar module landed on the surface of the moon, it had become evident that America was winning the Cold War and plans for further space exploration was scrapped.
According to Matthew Tribbe, a history professor and author writing for the Oxford University Press blog, the “truth is, sending men to the moon in 1969 did not make sense to a majority of Americans in the first place, let alone continuing with an ambitious effort to send astronauts on to Mars or permanent space colonies as advocates urged.” What many now see as the single greatest American accomplishment in the history of this country was seen as a waste of taxpayer dollars, an idea that persists with respect to NASA even today.
There was a lot to be afraid of in the 1960s, and it was fear that drove us towards the moon. Yet such is beauty of history. While it is important to be aware of this fact, it doesn’t diminish the staggering nature of this accomplishment. As much as the moon landings were an American victory, they were also a human victory.
Three brave men went hurtling into an unexplored void, followed by six more courageous trios over the next three years, and they all returned home. We took our fear and did something great with it.
Photo via NASA. Interestingly, this photo captures all of the physical spaces occupied by every human living or dead except for Michael Collins, which is poetic because he is often the Apollo 11 Crew member whose name is forgotten.