two presidents, two speeches, one astronaut

First, a bit of history. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite into orbit around the Earth. This was what scientists call ‘a big fucking deal’. It caught the U.S. entirely off guard, and it took about a year for us to get our shit together.

That really began when President Dwight Eisenhower created the National Space Council, with the idea that the nation really needed an agency dedicated to developing policies regarding space. You have to remember, this was back when the idea of human space flight was still pretty much science fiction.

Three years later, the Soviets launched Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the Earth. And once again, the U.S. was standing around with its thumb up its collective butt. But this time President John Kennedy sat down with the National Space Council and they came up with the most audacious policy goal ever. They decided “You guys, you know what we should do? We should totally go to the goddamned moon.”

“Our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men.”

At that point we were still having trouble putting folks in orbit. Sending them to the moon was completely nuts. But Kennedy liked the idea and announced the policy in a speech given in (I’m not making this up) Texas. It was a terrific speech. Kennedy quoted William Bradford, one of the founders of the Plymouth Bay Colony:

“[A]ll great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”

And Kennedy was just getting started. He said:

“[T]he eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

What’s equally astonishing is that Kennedy told the American public that it was going to cost them to send people to the moon. He flat-out told them “all this costs us all a good deal of money” and informed them their taxes would be raised to pay for it. That’s not all; he also told them there wasn’t any way for them to know if it was going to be worth it. “I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.”

And hey, the people responded and said “Dude, let’s go do it.” And we did. We went to the goddamned moon, inspired by a president who was adventurous and thoughtful and wicked smart. Over time, the idea of space exploration became less interesting to people, and we returned to the practice of standing around with our thumbs up our collective butt.

“Our journey into space will not only make us stronger and more prosperous, but will unite us behind grand ambitions and bring us all closer together. Wouldn’t that be nice? Can you believe that space is going to do that?”

Until a few days ago. That’s when Comrade Trump signed an executive order that re-established the National Space Council. Like Kennedy, Trump gave a speech.

“The future of American space leadership — we’re going to lead again. It’s been a long time. It’s over 25 years, and we’re opening up, and we are going to be leading again like we’ve never led before. We’re a nation of pioneers, and the next great American frontier is space. And we never completed — we started, but we never completed. We stopped. But now we start again.”

Yeah. We’re starting again. With another crazy idea. Not inspirationally crazy — actually crazy. Trump asked NASA to conduct a study to see if we could put astronauts on the first test flight of the agency’s new rocket and crew capsule. Got that? He wanted to put living people in the first test flight of a new rocket. Because he feels strongly about space and security.

“I’ve felt strongly about it for a long time. I used to say before doing what I did — I used to say, what happened?  Why aren’t we moving forward?

And security is going to be a very big factor with respect to space and space exploration.  At some point in the future, we’re going to look back and say how did we do it without space?”

I’m pretty sure at some point in the future, people will look back and say ‘What the fuck is wrong with this guy?’ I’m pretty sure people were saying that even while Comrade Trump was ad-libbing from the remarks some speechwriter wrote for him.

Buzz Aldrin, fondly remembering the days when they sent monkeys into space.

“It is America’s destiny to be at the forefront of humanity’s eternal quest for knowledge and to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown.  And I could say the great and very beautiful unknown.  Nothing more beautiful.”

Nothing more beautiful than the unknown. What a fucking idiot. Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, attended the signing ceremony and stood near Comrade Trump while he spoke. After his speech, Trump made a show of signing the executive order. Aldrin, who was clearly unimpressed, looked over Trump’s shoulder and said “Infinity and beyond” — the catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear, the buffoon-hero character from Toy Story. Trump’s response?

“This is infinity here. It could be infinity. We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something — but it could be infinity, right? Okay.”

It has to be something. It could be infinity. Right? Sweet Jeebus Galileo, this guy is actually the president. I weep.

HAL, close the pod bay doors, please.

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