One Giant Leap, But What Now?
Hello this is Darrell Castle with today’s Castle Report. Today I will be talking about and remembering the Apollo 11 mission which has its 50th anniversary this week. Fifty years ago, July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong did what no human had ever done before; he stepped from the Eagle’s ladder onto the surface of the moon.
Apollo 11 makes a dicey landing
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the two astronauts who undocked the Eagle from the command module and Armstrong as pilot flew the ship to the area on the moon known as the Sea of Tranquility. I remember the events like they happened yesterday since I was, as was most of the human race, glued to my television for the entire mission. It was touch and go there for a while because the landing area was thought to be a flat plain but when the Eagle approached it was covered by boulders. Armstrong had to fly the Eagle across the Sea of Tranquility until he had a safe landing area and when he landed the descent engine had only 30 seconds of fuel left.
The pride of a nation
When his now iconic words came over the Television, “the Eagle has landed” I still remember the relief in Walter Cronkite’s face and the excitement in his voice. Keep in mind that these men were doing something that no one had done before, something extremely dangerous, and something upon the successful completion of which rested the pride of a nation and the authenticity of its way of life.
Michael Collins remained in the command module as it orbited the moon waiting for the Eagle to complete its mission. Collins’ job was to locate the Eagle in its ascent and dock with it as Armstrong flew the Eagle into the docking mechanism. If the Eagle’s ascent engine had failed to ignite, or if some tiny miscalculation had been made in the rendezvous maneuvers, Michael Collins would have been making the trip home from the moon alone. Armstrong and Aldrin spent about 20 hours on the surface of the moon. They collected about 200 pounds of rock samples and planted a flag, an American flag, on the moon’s surface.
An American project
It may have been a giant leap for mankind and a trip for all of humanity but it was the American taxpayers who paid for it, and it was the guts and skill of three men along with the ingenuity of an entire nation that made it possible. Those who were not yet alive when the landing happened can’t grasp what a moment it was. It is no exaggeration to say that it was one of the greatest perhaps the greatest achievement of humanity in its history.
Apollo 11 importance: the arms race
The United States was in a cold war with the Soviet Union at the time and that meant an arms and technology race. The threat of nuclear war was always present and people were nervously aware of that as we changed leadership in 1960. General Eisenhower led us in war and peace for many years but he gave way to John Kennedy with the 1960 election. On May 25, 1961 President Kennedy spoke to a joint session of congress and to the American people and he told them that the United States would put a man on the moon within the current decade. That promise was kept with six months to spare but unfortunately President Kennedy was not alive to enjoy it. He lived only two and one-half years after that speech.
The space race then…
The Soviet space program had launched a Russian cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin who became the first human in space in 1959. It was a simple ride into space on a rocket called Vostok and a return to earth alive, but it was enough to get American attention and enough to accelerate the United States into a race that it appeared to be losing. The space race was more than just who gets to the moon first; it was a question of which system is superior, Soviet totalitarian communism or American representative self government. To some extent, I suppose that is still the question today.
Compared to today, we were young just 50 years ago with a young leader. President Kennedy was only 43 years old, handsome, and charismatic especially compared to the dour Nikita Khrushchev. The two men had some epic negotiation battles including the Cuban Missile Crises which had Middle America putting blankets over their windows to prevent flying glass fragments.
…and how Apollo 11 won that race
But we won; we won the race and buried the Soviet Union on the moon although it took another 20 years for them to realize it. There was a last ditch Soviet effort to beat Apollo 11 to the moon but it was an unmanned mission to land and bring back samples, and it crashed into the moon and never returned. Leadership is so important and just as vital today as it was then. One thing is clear from the history of civilizations, and that is that the people perish when their leadership is incompetent or non-existent.
Keep in mind that this scientific achievement was done without modern super computers and without the Internet. When Michael Collins, who along with Buzz Aldrin are the two still alive, was asked at the 50th reunion what was his biggest surprise about the mission, he said that all those little electrical gadgets worked perfectly. He also said that both Armstrong and Aldrin knew that if they were stranded on the moon, he was going home alone and would not commit suicide, but that’s the kind of men they were.
The Apollo 11 economy
The greatness of America was all in our future and not in our past we assumed. The word that best describes what we felt watching that mission was pride. We beat the Soviet Union and we were the best. Our potential was boundless and our greatness was all ahead but I wonder if John Kennedy would recognize his country today. No, actually I don’t wonder because I know he would not recognize it. When he was inaugurated in January 1961 the middle class was at its zenith. People of ordinary means knew that their job could support a couple with two children on one income. They could have a house, a car, one vacation per year, all on one income. The kids didn’t have to be stored with strangers or with the government.
The economy today
Now the middle class has been liquidated and it takes two incomes just too barely get by. Apollo 11 had to be paid for with real tax dollars but now this credit economy gives us the false impression that money is inexhaustible and greed is the only thing that keeps it all from being free. The laws of economics have been repealed or at least found to be invalid and we don’t follow them any more than we follow immigration laws.
Lack of leadership
There is no competent leadership to bring us safely through the storm, especially in the Democrat Party. Who is the leader of that Party anyway, Nancy Pelosi? When a freshman member of congress, barely in office six months, calls the Speaker of the House a racist the Speaker has no response except to continue the false narrative of “Trump is a racist.” She had the House pass a resolution condemning his racist tweets when any thinking person could read the tweet and see that there is nothing racist about it. She just adds to the division and calls attention to her cowardly failure to confront her own members.
Perhaps Bill and/or Hillary Clinton are the leaders of the Democrats? Earlier this week the Clintons were at a Billy Joel concert in Madison Square Garden when Joel welcomed them as his good friends. The entire audience almost as one loudly booed them. I guess even in New York the people are tired of those elites who are suspected of child rape. Maybe its Barack Obama, or Joe Biden who are the leaders of all the Democrats. Joe has no credibility left after his failure to answer and then his groveling cowardly apology to Kamala Harris.
…and the Republicans
The Republicans are just as bad and offer no visible alternative. If one person would just step forward with the courage and determination to do the right thing for the country without regard to legacy, or reelection, perhaps we could right the ship, but I see no one out there.
At the time Apollo 11 was perhaps the pinnacle of human achievement but now with supercomputing and artificial intelligence knowledge is advancing faster than our ability to handle it. Thousands of years ago progress was almost non-existent. People, over thousands of years, gradually learned how to domesticate animals and how to fashion stones into sharp points to make spears. Flint was discovered and that led to fire and that led to heating and shaping objects to make swords etc. Even with that entire discovery process very little changed for thousands of years. In the time of David 1000 years before Jesus people fought with swords and rode horses that pulled carts with wooden wheels, and 1000 years after Jesus they still did so nothing much changed for about 2500 years.
What happened to spur technological change in the world? What happened was the industrial revolution spurred into production by Western Civilization. In a period of 100 years humanity advanced more than it had in the previous 2500 years. Some of us seem to have forgotten that, and now a handful of people out there seem intent on destroying what Western Civilization has produced. They are members of a group that seems to prefer transformative or destructive theory meaning society has to be destroyed and rebuilt in their image.
They can’t stop technology
They may be too late to destroy technological change however. Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel formulated what has come to be called Moore’s law and it is now being applied far beyond his electronic world. Moore’s law holds that the number of transistors that can be placed in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. If Moore’s law holds for another 10 years or so it will inevitably lead to what some scientists now call singularity which is when artificial intelligence will equal human intelligence. The difference will continue to compound after that with very unpredictable results except that the nature of life itself will be altered. This is all coming to pass well within the lives of at least our children if not us.
Loss of humanity?
We are concerned, as we should be, about the total loss of privacy in every area but we should also be very concerned that in just a few short years we may no longer be completely human. New species of human and machine cross DNA will inevitably result as well as human and animal DNA mixes. In the meantime our supposed leaders busy themselves by dreaming up new and ever more ridiculous reasons to call each other racist, white supremacist, and the like knowing all the while that the premise is completely false. The whole thing is like some kind of ancient mysticism; devoid of evidence it instead utilizes its own incantations as proof, but as Humpty Dumpty said to Alice “the real question is who will be master.”Which value system will rule this civilization?
It seems obvious to me if not to anyone else that as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said the West has forgotten God. We have not only forgotten him, we have banished him from public life. The one who created the moon that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on 50 years ago and the one who keeps it hanging in space has been intentionally forgotten.
Finally folks, how do we ever fulfill the promise of greatness left by Apollo 11? Respect for the rule of law would be a good start.
At least that’s the way I see it.
Until next time folks,
This is Darrell Castle.