Wednesday, July 15, 2009

'One Small Step' No Longer Seen as Such a Giant Leap for America

My stomach's always a little tight while watching the space shuttle launches. Today's was no different. Of course, it's a thrill as always to watch that rocket ship take off and to see the solid fuel boosters peel away as the shuttle leaves the atmosphere:

The Washington Post has the story of today's lift-off, "Endeavour Launched On Sixth Attempt." As the report indicates, "Success came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the liftoff of man's first moon landing. Endeavour blasted off a little after 6 p.m. from its seaside pad - the same one used to launch Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969."

That historical marker might seem as important as other milestones of the decade, like the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But as the Pew Research organization indicates, the powerful national urge to reach high and touch the face of God may be receding from the American ethos. See, "'One Small Step' No Longer Seen as Such a Giant Leap for America":

Four decades after the first American astronauts walked on the moon, that historic accomplishment has lost some prominence in the eyes of the public.

Ten years ago, when asked to name America's greatest achievement of the 20th century, the specific accomplishment cited most frequently -- at 18% -- was space exploration or the moon mission. Overall, 47% cited any achievement in science, medicine or technology, including space.

But in May of this year, when the public was asked to name the greatest U.S. accomplishment of the past 50 years, somewhat fewer (12%) specifically mentioned space exploration or getting a man to the moon as the greatest achievement. Only about a quarter (27%) mentioned an achievement in science, medicine or technology. (For more from this survey, see "
Public Praises Scientists; Scientists Fault Public, Media," July 9, 2009.)
Check the link for more. Statistically, just as many people said the election of the first black black president was as great an accomplishment as the successes of the space program.


See also,
AubreyJ, who is our top shuttle-launch blogger: "4- Watch Launch and Mission Live Of Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-127."

Plus, see Rand Simberg, "
A Giant Leap for Commercial Spaceflight."


UPDATE: Via Memeorandum, here's an awesome photo-essay from The Big Picture, "Remembering Apollo 11."

Perhaps this anniversary will turn public opinion around a bit.

Velociman's not too optimistic, "We Choose To Go To The Moon":

July 16th marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. I explain to my daughters that once upon a time we were a great nation that strived for the stars. No more. Now we are ashamed of glory, because some fucking crackhead might feel neglected if we don't dote upon her, and slather her with our largesse at the expense of the Great Things. Obama is sacking the Constellation program. We won't be going back to the moon, and forget Mars.

But once upon a time the Senator packed us up in the station wagon and drove to Titusville to see my aunt, and to witness the launch of Apollo 11. It was a goddamned beautiful thing, too.

Hat Tip: American Digest.

And thank goodness for patriots and eternal optimists. See Buzz Aldrin, "40 Years After Apollo 11 Moon Landing, It's Time for a Mission to Mars."


Anonymous said...

In the Pew poll asking:"What is the greatest American achievement of the past 50 years?" 33 said nothing or didn't know. I think this is quite frightening. The largest percentage of poll respondents had no knowledge of or interest in, achievement, history or America.

If you compare this to the answers poll respondents would have given 50 years ago, you would be horrified.

We have sunk far indeed.

Daniel said... has a really cool site from what I hear (haven't been able to get on it due to flash problems). I saw a clip from their video of one of the stage launches at, and I've also heard they're running 3 twitter accounts to report the progress from the perspectives of different crew members.