July 19, 2009

TWO ANNIVERSARIES

I failed to mention two anniversaries this week, two events that mean a great deal to me.

First was the Apollo XI mission.  Over recent years, I have developed an awe with the engineering feat that was the space program.  I love imagining the what-ifs and the science problems and the minutae.  And I can't put into words the profound sense of Americanness I feel when I think about it, despite the fact that I too experience "contradiction in the conservative soul."  Nevertheless, it makes me feel alive, and confident in my fellow man.

Second was the anniversary of Willis Carrier's invention of the air conditioner, an invention that put food on my table and a roof over my head for the first 18 years of my life.  And one for which I am sure my husband is eternally grateful right about now.

Posted by: Sarah at 10:03 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 Sarah, you might be interesting in this piece on the Apollo guidance computer. There's even a knitting angle!

Posted by: david foster at July 20, 2009 10:57 AM (uWlpq)

2 I never thought about the air conditioning thing...  it helped pay for my college! 

Posted by: Marnie at July 21, 2009 09:31 AM (AMsAq)

3 All I have to say is, GOD BLESS WILLIS CARRIER. :-)

Posted by: Krista at July 21, 2009 10:06 AM (sUTgZ)

4 Sarah,

John Derbyshire asked,

If the federal government is going to pay for my thrills, why shouldn't it pay for everyone else's?

Space is not my thrill, so I don't feel his "contradiction in the conservative soul". But I might feel it if there were some massive government-run language documentation program. Learning about obscure languages is my equivalent of learning about whatever's on the Moon. Nonetheless, I cannot evade his question. I cannot rationalize a program just because it benefits me personally. Conservatives are accused of being selfish, but they shouldn't be selfish.

I vaguely recall Ayn Rand or some other Objectivist writing about how the space program was wonderful, though it would've been nice if it were private. But this excerpt of an Ayn Rand article I rediscovered has no such caveat. Rand herself was there:

I found myself waving to the rocket involuntarily, I heard people applauding and joined them, grasping our common motive; it was impossible to watch passively, one had to express, by some physical action, a feeling that was not triumph, but more: the feeling that that white object’s unobstructed streak of motion was the only thing that mattered in the universe.

What we had seen, in naked essentials—but in reality, not in a work of art—was the concretized abstraction of man's greatness.

One knew that this spectacle was not the product of inanimate nature, like some aurora borealis, or of chance, or of luck, that it was unmistakably human—with “human,” for once, meaning grandeur—that a purpose and a long, sustained, disciplined effort had gone to achieve this series of moments, and that man was succeeding, succeeding, succeeding! ...

That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt—this was the cause of the event’s attraction and of the stunned numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being—an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.

Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly today—the frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man’s highest potential.

Why hasn't the space program advanced much since then? Could W. Robinson Mason's question be the answer?

"Are Realistic Sci-Fi Movies, TV and Games Slowing the Colonization of Space?"

Posted by: Amritas at July 25, 2009 08:07 PM (h9KHg)

Posted by: Amritas at July 25, 2009 08:08 PM (h9KHg)

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