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California Literary Review

America’s Race to the Moon


America’s Race to the Moon

During the Apollo 15 mission, an anonymous viewer phoned his local TV station to suggest that a large rock discovered by the astronauts should be named in honor of “a taxpayer selected at random from the computers of the Internal Revenue Service.”

America's Race to the Moon 1

Astronaut Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17, The Final Lunar Mission

[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Gerard J. DeGroot‘s new book Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest.]

The race was won. But, in order to give the impression that it was always more than just a race, Americans would go back to the Moon. NASA would invest the missions with further scientific hocus-pocus, again to give the impression that it was a very serious pursuit and to convince the public that something worthwhile (perhaps even profitable) might come out of the great adventure—something more than magnificent desolation.

John Kennedy had said that Americans should land on the Moon before the end of the decade. They’d done that. But wouldn’t it be neat if they were able to complete the task twice before the new decade began? This was, after all, the Cold War, where propaganda victories took the place of military advance. To go twice would put an exclamation point at the end of a bold statement about American capitalist supremacy.

The Apollo 12 mission was therefore scheduled for November 14, 1969. Unfortunately that’s winter, something that happens even in Florida. The mission to the Ocean of Storms began in storms at Cape Kennedy. According to the NASA rulebook, rain was okay, but lightning was not. Since the meteorologists saw no chance of lightning, Mission Control, aware of how narrow were these windows of opportunity for going to the Moon, decided to press ahead. The Saturn V rocket roared to life, but before it could clear the launch tower, lightning struck. Circuit breakers blew, and, inside the command module, the astronauts were momentarily plunged into darkness. “We just had everything in the world drop out,” Pete Conrad told a momentarily bewildered Mission Control.
America's Race to the Moon 2
A less complicated vehicle would certainly have crashed. But the entire package had concentric layers of redundancy built into every system. Almost immediately, backup power kicked in, and the rocket stayed on course. “It’s a matter of making every possible human effort to avoid failure of a part,” von Braun once boasted. “And then taking steps to avoid the effects of a failure if one should develop anyway.” After a thorough check of the systems, Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean continued on their way to the Moon. Conrad and Bean landed in the Ocean of Storms and found, to no one’s surprise, a desolate monochromatic landscape full of rocks. As a result of some nifty navigating, they landed very close to the Surveyor 3 lunar probe, which had touched down a few years earlier. They retrieved the camera and a few other pieces of the equipment, so that engineers back on Earth could study the effects of the lunar environment on man-made objects. To everyone’s surprise, a microscopic biological organism was found on the equipment when it was studied back on Earth. There followed a brief flurry of speculation that perhaps life had been found on the Moon. That possibility was quickly swept aside; in the end, the simple explanation seemed most logical: Bean and Conrad had probably contaminated the materials by touching them with dirty fingers. In other words, there was no life on the Moon, just rocks.

The popularity of the rock-collecting expeditions was quickly waning. Apollo 13 was scheduled for April 1970. The mission was given to James Lovell, Ken Mattingly, and Fred Haise. Just days before the launch, fellow astronaut Charles Duke was exposed to measles. He in turn unwittingly exposed the flight crew. Haise and Lovell had immunity, but Mattingly did not. By this stage, NASA should perhaps have contemplated the unlucky reputation of number 13, but it does not do for an agency specializing in science to be superstitious. The show had to go on. Mattingly was replaced by Jack Swigert.

The rest of the story is well known, thanks in large part to the film starring Tom Hanks. An explosion ripped through the outer skin of the Command Module, which quickly lost electrical power. To add to their woes, Haise came down with a serious infection and was desperately ill for most of the journey. The crew had to use the lunar module as a lifeboat, up to reentry. They survived through a combination of courage, flexibility, determination, and imagination, not to mention sheer brilliance—both in the spacecraft and on the ground.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the cause of the problem dated back to 1965, when the power supply on the Apollo spacecraft was increased from 28 to 65 volts. The manufacturer of the suspect oxygen tanks had failed to make an adjustment for this change, which means that every previous Apollo mission had flown with the same potentially disastrous malfunction. In this case, however, the problem was compounded because the tank in question had been damaged in preflight exercises when it had previously been installed on Apollo 10. It was replaced, repaired, and put on Apollo 13 by technicians who clearly were not superstitious. The tank continued to cause problems in the preparation for the Apollo 13 flight, but no one considered them serious enough to cancel the flight. So much for von Braun’s assurances about removing all conceivable faults.

The film Apollo 13 is a masterpiece, a riveting drama of human endurance under the most challenging circumstances. But the drama obscures some harsh realities about the space program. The crew undoubtedly exhibited immense courage and were helped by brilliantly creative improvisation on the ground. Survival was first and foremost a triumph of human ingenuity. But while humans had solved the problem, they were also the cause of it. A crisis developed because men were on board, which made it imperative that they be brought back. An unmanned flight would simply have been aborted and the only loss would have been millions of dollars worth of equipment.

Another reality is even more telling. Of all the lunar missions, probably 99 percent of Americans can recall only two: Apollo 11 and Apollo 13—the first one and the nearly disastrous third one. The others have faded into obscurity and insignificance. At the time, they seemed a bit like a scratched record endlessly repeating itself. With each launch, attention faded, telecasts shortened, and criticism of the costs grew more strident. Before disaster struck, one of the transmissions from Apollo 13, which was supposed to be aired live on television, was canceled by CBS in favor of the Doris Day Show. After the explosion, however, the mission became a media event because it was a failure. Success was no longer news. Flight director Gene Kranz later became famous for his immortal line “failure is not an option.” In truth, however, the entire mission was a failure, since its purpose was to put two more men on the Moon. The fact that it failed made it interesting and newsworthy.

If Apollo 14 is remembered at all, it is for the fact that Alan Shepard hit some golf balls on the lunar surface. In a subsequent All in the Family episode, Michael “Meathead” Stivic (Rob Reiner) argued with his father-in-law, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), about the cost of the space program. “You don’t think,” he shouted, “we got anything more important to do with twenty billion dollars than to send a guy up to the Moon to hit a few golf balls?” A majority of the nation agreed. During the Apollo 15 mission, an anonymous viewer phoned his local TV station to suggest that a large rock discovered by the astronauts should be named in honor of “a taxpayer selected at random from the computers of the Internal Revenue Service.”

David Scott, who traveled on Apollo 15, believed wholeheartedly in the value of the space program (His was the first mission to deploy the hugely expensive Lunar Rover.). To him, it was not just symbolic of the superiority of the American system, it was also a sublime demonstration of mankind’s need to explore. “As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown at Hadley,” he said while on the surface of the Moon, “I sort of realize there’s a fundamental truth to our nature. Man must explore. And this is exploration at its greatest.” Perhaps for some men that was true, and certainly sincerely felt. But Scott’s description of the Moon does make one wonder why there was ever a need to go there at all, and, even more so, to return:

To an “Earthling” one of the Moon’s most striking features was its stillness. With no atmosphere and no wind, the only movements we could detect on the lunar surface, apart from our own, were the gradually shifting shadows cast to the side of rocks and the rims of craters by the Sun slowly rising higher in the sky. There were no other features: no trees, bushes, rivers, streams, flowers, grass, animals or birds—none of the signs of nature that human beings have evolved with and are used to. There was no sound, either, apart from the gentle humming of the equipment in our backpacks. There were no clouds, haze or mist, and there appeared to be no color. The sky was pitch black except for the deep blue and white of our own planet suspended high in the sky like a Christmas tree ornament.

Astronauts always comment upon how lovely the Earth is from space, especially in comparison to the barren Moon. The view is fantastic. From that altitude, Earth is a lovely pearl dappled in shades of blue, pink, and white. It’s pretty precisely because one can’t see the hunger, the cruelty, the pollution, and the hatred that despoil the planet. Illness, poverty, crowded schools, and homeless people—all the problems crying out for money—magically disappear.

Since the missions, memory has faded almost completely. Some people can recall a very expensive lunar rover, but only the space geeks have a real sense of the distinct nature of each mission. That is entirely understandable given that NASA and the public were dancing to a different tune. There was hardly a whimper of protest from viewers when the three main networks kept coverage of Apollo 17, the last lunar mission, launched in late 1972, to a bare minimum. PBS briefly considered stepping into the void but in the end could not justify the huge expense for an audience so small. When CBS cut the last seventeen minutes of Medical Center in order to show the launch, the network was bombarded with complaints from viewers. ABC gave only half an hour to the lunar landing, but did include a short report during the halftime of the Jets-Raiders NFL game. Instead of showing the final steps of man on the Moon, NBC decided to broadcast a repeat of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. “We . . . were already yesterday’s news,” Cernan remarked bitterly.

For most Americans, the race was over when Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins returned. There seemed little sense in going back. NASA, on the other hand, was still thinking in terms of the Moon missions as a prelude to something bigger. But by this stage the agency had neither the imagination, nor the money, nor the mandate to figure out what to do next.

So what was the lunar mission all about? What was it for? Charles Schultze, LBJ’s budget director, had to deal with the financial implications of Kennedy’s challenge. In the end, he decided that there were worse ways to spend money:

Looked at as entertainment, it sure did have its entertainment value. . . . It’s not gonna give us much scientific knowledge, you get some rocks back from the Moon. But you do it on a per capita basis, and as an entertainment tax it’s a great entertainment. You get not only the Moon landing itself, but you got all those initial, you know—the first shot around the Earth, Glenn, all of that business. And then you get—I don’t remember how many—four or five moon landings and, eh, as an entertainment tax, per capita, it wasn’t bad.

Walter Cronkite always seemed to have the final word on so much of what happened in, or to, America. He watched the space race at close quarters from Sputnik to the last journey of the lunar rover. Was it worth it? You bet.

The success of our space program . . . in that terrible decade of the 60’s, played an important part in maintaining a semblance of morale in a country that was very, very depressed in everything else that was happening. . . . The Civil Rights fight, the assassinations, the Vietnam War, these were things that split America in a way that we hadn’t been split since the Civil War of the 1860’s. And here was this one program where people could look up and dream if you please of incredible adventure. And there was a pride in that. It had a great deal to do with maintaining some sense of balance in this civilization of ours.

In other words, the lunar mission was a $35 billion happy pill administered to a generation of depressed Americans. There’s no doubt that the 1960s were tough years, but as a cure for depression, surely Valium would have been cheaper. Cronkite was a good man and a great American. But every once in a while, he did talk nonsense. In 1974, he argued, in defense of new space goals: “How much is it worth to prove in an era of cynicism and gloom that man can do anything he wants to do as long as he has the will to do it and the money to spend.” At one time, that sort of remark sounded inspiring. In the lean 1970s, it merely sounded arrogant.



  1. Katie

    September 20, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    i love you guys

  2. Laurel

    July 25, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    There’s an error here about Gene Kranz’s “immortal line, ‘Failure is not an option.'” Kranz did not say this during the Apollo 13 mission. Ed Harris said it when he played Kranz in the 1995 MOVIE Apollo 13. However, the real Kranz liked the line and used it as the title of his 2000 memoir.

  3. Bishnu Adhikari

    June 10, 2008 at 12:38 am

    I read your book named
    destination: MOON
    by Astronaut
    James Irwin

    Reading this book I feel as I’m on the board while going to the moon. I am a wheelchair user nepalese and interes to reading materials about the paleanthropology and austromony. your book is very interesting for the school of the thirld world country. If any other materials are there with you would you let us know that can be useful for such children.

  4. lahcen

    March 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    With all the respect to you sirs, this idea of yours, walking on the Moon, fits no more! Did the Americans truly walk on the Moon? o, was is not just the Cold War biggest lie? A number of documentaries have proved, thanks to scientific scrutiny, that hollywood was behind the whole scenes the world ” watched”!
    otherwise why NASA, or any country else,could not repeat such a stunning experience? To claim that it’s coz of its high cost is no more than an overused flimsy pretext!


  5. mood

    May 28, 2007 at 4:19 am

  6. art101

    May 28, 2007 at 4:19 am

    Interesting thread. Dr. DeGroot clearly has a brain in his head. He knows how to put a sentence together (a rare gift in our modern world). He knows how to express an argument. Based on a quick Google search of his works, he knows how to write books (and maybe how to market the books he writes). We might have fun talking about this and that If we were to sit down in a pub somewhere to pull off a pint or two. That said, Dr. DeGroot’s moon essay pissed me off. It sent my blood pressure up a notch or two.

    “…the lunar mission was a $35 billion happy pill administered to a generation of depressed Americans.” ? Gerard J. DeGroot, Professor of Modern History, University of St. Andrews, Scotland [planet Earth]

    Hundreds of years from now (assuming our species doesn’t kill itself off once and for all), archaeologists and paleontologists will dig up stuff like that and say, “what the hell were those jerkoffs thinking?” A couple of hundred years ago, anybody who said the world is round got murdered by church and state. Yikes. Have a nice little life, Dr. DeG. Consider revisiting the concept of vision.

  7. David Loftus

    May 28, 2007 at 4:18 am

    The moon program occurred at just the right time for me: I was 10 when the Eagle landed. I plastered newspaper photos of the Apollo 12 mission over my bed (so I remember Surveyor 3, the unmanned probe visited by Conrad and Bean on the surface), and I can still name most of the astronauts who walked on the moon.

    But today I am not so readily and ungraciously inclined to dismiss DeGroot’s arguments. As an expression of “vision” or “human aspiration,” I wonder whether the moon program wasn’t more likely a grand example of humans’ propensity for distracting themselves from the hard, incremental, but vital trenchwork of trying to ensure the species survives and prospers?

    I agree that many of the wonderful spinoffs from the space program are no justification; of necessity, we would have invented those wonderful things, or their counterparts, anyway. I agree that humans’ chances of surviving into another century or three are not looking too good, and escape to another neighborhood is a lovely idea, but I don’t think there’s any chance we’re going to make it — even if all humankind threw its collective resources into the task.

    Several years ago, The New Yorker had an interesting article about how NASA and the astronauts have downplayed and even hidden the the fact that a little space travel is very hard on even the fine physical specimens we’ve sent up so far: many astronauts have gotten repeatedly, violently, throwing-up sick from weightlessness; and more subtle but potentially dire effects, such as calcium loss in the bones, have also been measured.

    The message I got is that Earth is all we have, and we need to start behaving more like we seriously believe it. Air and water pollution, radiation poisoning (of the ground, not just our bodies), global warming, overpopulation and malnutrition, the spread of nuclear arms, are all far more deserving of a crash program than putting a person on another heavenly body.

    If that is so, then the moon shots were little better than a lovely, charming distraction. They galvanized Americans to accomplish a hard, clear task, and made us a dream a little while . . . but was there anything more of real, lasting substance?

  8. Zednine

    May 28, 2007 at 4:17 am

    I am excited to see so much lively, rational debate on this subject, but I continue to be disappointed at the emotional reactionism that serves only as a detriment to your own argument. You can?t claim ignorance in others and at the same time display it yourself. Thank you to everyone who is clearly and factually presenting their argument.

    For myself, I will freely admit that part of my objection is spawned from resentment at having to give up my money at gunpoint for something I don?t agree with (and if you question the ?gunpoint? part, try refusing to pay your taxes then refusing to submit to the government?s retribution). Don?t get me wrong, though, I don?t mind paying taxes to provide essential services. However, this is all an argument for another day.

    Back to the point; the rational arguments above offer some good perspectives and are thought provoking.

    ?Synergist? presented some good alternatives.

    ?Mood? made an accurate observation about the technological spinoffs. We all use Velcro, light weight alloys, etc. To this point, however, I am reminded that necessity is the mother of invention and laziness is the father. So I believe that whether we went into space or not, we would still come up with the necessities and conveniences to make our lives easier and safer.

    ?Drive2xs?, regarding your plea for my continued contribution, please see paragraph 2 of this response. Plus, nothing personal, but I?m not really encouraged to dish out more of my money on the advice of someone whose screen name is ?Drive To Excess?.

    Finally, ?Greg?, thank you for your clear arguments (though you did get a little hot under the collar on point #1).

    I still think we do not need to spend the money and take the human risk (let?s not forget NASA?s track record of late) of putting people on the Moon or Mars or elsewhere. I do agree that the creative thought process that a human can provide is essential, but I also think that with the process of sending a machine there to retrieve samples and return them for analysis, the risk of loss, both in dollars and in human lives is far, far less than sending humans there and back.

    I am sure that, in spite of my objections, space exploration and colonization is the way of the future (barring an eminent ELE, of course), and I?m sure that I and my children will reap some benefit from it.

    Thank you all who presented well thought out arguments, and for those whose best argument was an emotional reaction, I respect your need to express your emotions, but don?t make the mistake of thinking that such an approach advances the debate at all. Though you will score points with your fellow emoters by that method, those who wish to truly debate the issue will not be swayed with that approach.

    The advance of civilization will always be driven by the necessary tension between the idealist and the pragmatist, and the net result will always, and most appropriately, be a path between the two.

  9. Greg Neuman

    May 28, 2007 at 4:16 am

    Some excellent replies here since yesterday; I’m glad to see that the majority of respondents oppose catastrophic short-sightedness like Dr. DeGroot’s. Just a couple items to add:

    1) Robotic space probes are no replacement for living astronauts. As advanced as machines like (for example) Cassini and Spirit / Opportunity are, they’re bumbling insects when compared to a creative, intelligent, knowledgeable human being armed with the right tools. Anyone who believes that sending a machine is “just as good” as having a scientist on-site simply doesn’t understand how science works. That is not an opinion, it is a fact.

    2) All of the talk about destiny and exploration and a “vision for the future” is great. I agree with such ideas and support them 100%. But that stuff is a minor point when compared to the issue of survivability. ELEs (extinction level events) happen on Earth every 50 to 100 million years, and the next could come at any time. Maybe it’ll be a killer asteroid, or a virus we can’t cure. Perhaps the Yellowstone caldera will completely let go and shroud the Earth in volcanic ash for 200 years. Regardless, SOMETHING will eventually come along to wipe us out. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”.

    The only way to ensure mankind’s long-term survival is to expand into new environments that are completely seperate from the Earth. At minimum we must colonize the Moon, Mars, Ganymede, Callisto, and probably some asteroids. Of course I’d love to see interstellar colonies too, but that’s going to be a task for the fourth millennium, not the third.

    Our manned space program is the precourser to doing all of this. Right now it’s not about colonizing, it’s about learning the lessons that will one day allow us to colonize. If we want people to live on the Moon and Mars in the 22nd century, we have to send people there during the 21st to learn how to do it.

    The space program is not a vanity project. Is is about nothing less than the survival of our entire species.


  10. drive2xs

    May 28, 2007 at 4:15 am

    In the 1960 & 1970’s NASA fell a single drop into a potential ocean of technology, which we as a society will continue to reap the spin-offs of far into the distance future thus is the price of building blocks.

    If you wish to enjoy the benefits of a civilized society then please continue to contribute your minimal penance otherwise move to a less civil society where your tax contribution is greater, but your family’s welfare is in actual jeopardy. Have a nice day!

  11. Steve

    May 28, 2007 at 4:15 am

    I guess you beleave China is wasting money as well for entertainment value? Space programs are about economic and military applications, this is not about entertainment, its about a means to an end.

  12. Jon Henke

    May 28, 2007 at 4:14 am

    There will always be those who seek to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    And they shall be called Professors.

  13. anonymous

    May 28, 2007 at 4:13 am

    This is pathetic; I can’t believe Google news would have a link to this.

  14. anonymous

    May 28, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Zednine, your missing the point. Most of the cost involved in space exploration is the cost of do research at the cutting edge – The same research that has brought us fantastic improvements in living standards. In addition, the reason for space exploration isn’t just the exploration itself, we really really need to get off this rock if we wish to survive as a race. How do you propose we do that if we only ever send machines into space? Currently we have all our eggs in the one basket and we’ve been very very lucky – how long can that last?

  15. Robert

    May 28, 2007 at 4:11 am

    Most clearly Zednine misses the point of space exploration. It’s not about sending people, it’s about inspiring people to do difficult things in the face of unknown benefits. If we never dream about what might be over the horizons, we’ll never go there and we’ll end up stagnating and dying. You can’t always see the apparent benefits new things; it took years before anyone could even figure out how best to use the airplane or the automobile. It took the English DECADES to establish thriving colonies in North America. It USED to be that only GOVERNMENT astronauts could venture into space. Now private (albeit RICH) citizens can afford it. Space travel has raised the bar for (perceived) respect from other nations. If a third world country launches a satellite into orbit, it means they’ve joined an elite club. To launch a satellite requires internal stability, an educated populace to produce engineers and a sound economy to pay for it all. Sure a lot of their people don’t do very well, but a sound industrialized infrastructure means that EVERYONE benefits as it grows and diversifies. It’s NOT perfect, but it’s the best model we have – at least until someone comes out with something better.

  16. mood

    May 28, 2007 at 4:11 am

    Any responsible, rational, thinking adult would know that everything that is
    advanced tech. today (& things that have contributed the utmost to humanity) spawned from the space program of the 60’s. And we’re looking to do it again, on 0.6% of the nation’s budget, 0.6%!
    I only hope we do it without the overhead of an international partnership. I want to shoot for the moon & ONLY on MY dimes!

  17. synergist

    May 28, 2007 at 4:10 am

    How about an agency (Need A Scientific Approach) dedicated to the practical spin-off technologies we can use to help figure out how to ensure the survival of the 6 billion of us who will never get to leave the planet? How about take the exploration money and put it towards exploration of the possible alternative energy solutions or CO2 reduction, or propulsion systems so the jets that are “up there” creating the problems they create. Whatever…but the concept of getting us off the planet is not as wise as figuring out how to take care of the one we have.

  18. Dhu

    May 28, 2007 at 4:09 am

    Science fiction it is. But will
    it be Caves of Steel or Wunderland?

    Off-planet exploration/industrialization is not nearly as
    economic as just sitting here in our
    own shit, but if we don’t manage to
    sell people on the Luxury of Space,
    things are gonna get _very_ unpleasant
    here at the bottom of the well.


  19. Zednine

    May 28, 2007 at 4:09 am

    It?s sad when folks like ?Anonymous? have to resort to unjustified personal attacks on those who don?t agree with them in order to substantiate their own opinions/beliefs. I seriously question whether there is any research (scientific or otherwise) behind the ?75% of the bell curve? claim. Additionally, are most of those 75% really thinking only of the cost of their next beer? I doubt it.

    There are certainly better ways to ?contribute the most to Humanity? than throw good money at a project that has no better purpose than to give an extremely exclusive few the opportunity to leave a few footprints on the moon and bring back a few rocks. Again I assert that there is very little that man can do in space that his machines can?t do well enough and at a much lesser cost. By that measure, the moon landings were a dismal failure. And, if the measure is man?s drive/destiny to explore then the moon landings were a dismal failure on that count, too. With only an extremely elite club of people going to the moon, that is hardly fulfilling man?s drive to explore. 21 out of some 6 billion?what percentage is that anyway?

    I choose to ?contribute the most to Humanity? by sending my children to college and raising them to be responsible, rational thinking adults. A much more worthy use of my money and efforts, don?t you think?

    Go to the moon if you like, but do it on your dime, not mine

  20. anonymous

    May 28, 2007 at 4:08 am

    75% of the bell curve that is Humanity question neither man’s place in the universes nor his destiny. A good many of them might wonder no further than how many six packs could be had with $20 billion. They were the ones happily tuned in to Doris Day.

    Who complained about the television coverage of the Apollo program? Not the ones willing to stap themselves to the top of an explosive device in the name of Humanity. Nor the ones who conceived or designed the thing.

    Would Steven Hawking complain? Of course not. How about Marie Curie? Fermi? Edison? Pasteur? Mendel? Copernicus? Newton? All space geeks those…so no fair? Okay then…how about Jesus Christ, Confuscious, Mohammed, Siddhartha Gautama? How about Carl Jung, Alfred Nobel, or even the immortal Robert Burns?

    It seems to me that the persons who contribute the most to Humanity wouldn’t have minded missing the end of Medical Center.

    If we allow the opinion of the lower end of the bell curve–including souless clods like DeGroot–then we’re allowing the inferior to steer the course of Humanity.

    So, go ahead…denounce space exploration, Mr. DeGroot. Do it while you’re on holiday in some exotic locale you felt compelled to visit for the simple you’d never been there before. And, please, do it while sucking down a beer, part of that six pack you seem so fond of.

  21. Zednine

    May 28, 2007 at 4:06 am

    Space is a wonderful, exciting, and generally excellent place for science fiction. It is also an acceptable place for robotic exploration (though costs can make we question that), but considering the astronomical costs (excuse the pun) of making people-compatible containers for space and the enormous risks involved, I seriously question whether there is any wisdom at all in putting humans in space.

    The most convincing argument I’ve heard in favor of man in space is the “need to explore”. But, if that’s your best justification, dig into your own pockets and keep your hands out of mine. Besides, with today’s robotic technology, there is very little that man can do in space that machines cannot.

    Stop cheerleading for an overgrown, gluttonous bureaucratic entity (NASA) and use your money for something that can really make a difference. Demand a 50% downsize of NASA!

  22. Alan Z.

    May 28, 2007 at 4:05 am

    Sometimes its not the destination that matters, its the journey.

    To sum up the space program as merely a 35 billion dollar happy pill for depressed Americans only highlights DeGroot’s ignorance of the subject.

  23. Greg Neuman

    May 28, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Agreed, Jim. But if exploration, knowledge, and a sense of destiny are not enough for Dr. DeGroot (and the millions of visionless luddites who think like him) one hopes we can at least appeal to their survival instinct.

    If you want to know why we absolutely, positively must have a manned space program Dr. DeGroot, I suggest you go ask the dinosaurs.


    Greg Neuman

  24. Jim

    May 28, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Dear Dr. DeGroot,

    Thank goodness some visionary folks can persist in exploratory action and fortitude despite cynical knuckleheads such as yourself. What have you accomplished of value in your time on Earth?


    Jim Lindelien

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