Friday, July 20, 2012

No More Moon Trips!


So, on this Holiest of Days for space geeks everywhere, where we celebrate the landing of Americans on the moon, it may surprise some people to know:

Apollo Moon Landings
That's right. Support for space technology back then was about what support is for space technology now: plentiful among the science junkies, sparse among the average joes, judgmental, skeptical, and resounding with the ever-present squalls of "hey, that's taxpayer money!"

Yes. Yes, it is.

And you have a satellite TV, cellular phone, GPS, easy access to clean water, increased food availability, better weather warning systems, and advanced life-saving medical technology because of those precious tax-payer dollars spent on space. Be prepared to give all that up if you don't believe space is a worthwhile endeavour -- because satellites don't get into orbit by magic.

Terribly Dignified Apollo Astronauts
What, you don't trust us?

In 2003, the Division of Space History in the National Air & Space Museum (part of the Smithsonian Institution) released the "Public opinion polls and perceptions of US human spaceflight" which addresses the notions of massive support for Apollo that has inexplicably waned in modern times.

The somewhat lengthy but entirely-worth-reading (make a sandwich first) spaceflight study includes this stunning paragraph:

"Many people believe Project Apollo was popular, because it garnered significant media attention, but polls do not support a contention that Americans embraced the missions. Consistently throughout the 1960s a majority did not believe Apollo was worth the cost, with the one exception to this a poll taken at the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July 1969."

In other words, after a decade of having our asses handed to us by the Soviet space program, the mob only got on board that one day we finally had our own victory!

Where do Astronauts hang out? The Space Bar!
We waved our flags and patted ourselves on the back and smiled for the cameras. Then, everyone went back to bashing space, despite our modern lives being completely and utterly dependent on it.

You know, I was going to throw in some more pictures here and write some commentary about all this, but now I am too depressed to continue. So here's a song by Craftlass I'm downloading and singing along to while I drown my spacey sorrows... words and lyrics for Familiar Frontier are perfect for days like this one.

*sigh* ... Will we ever learn?


Shaun M. Coates said...

This is an interesting insight into public support during the Apollo Program. I always thought that there was a lot of support, but thinking back the films and specials only ever showed people supporting during Apollo 11 launch. Perhaps based on that fact, we filled in the blanks with this picturesque ideal that everyone was captivated from the get go.

60's you just lost some serious cool points!

PillowNaut said...

Agreed, Shaun, and very well said. It is "nostalgia effect", I guess.

I remember being shocked while listening to a Tom Lehrer CD, whereby this popular 60s comic committed to recording the comment that "it's taking $20 billion dollars of our money to put some CLOWN on the MOON." But once we did it, and it became a point of national pioneering pride, I gather people pretended as if they supported it all along, LOL! I suspect the same will be true for a Mars mission -- it will be stupid and costly right up until someone pulls it off ;)

Zantippy Skiphop said...

It really can get depressing to hear people say things like, "What does that money get us, Tang?" Yesterday I was working on a Curiosity rover article, and got emotionally side-tracked by remembering the continual promise of humans going to Mars, and how that's just used as some kind of political rallying cry, with nothing behind it. I was so mad I had to just go pat a bunny in order to finish writing. But I AM going to write one on the promises of humans going to Mars, and take no prisoners.

(Personally, I'm fine with robots, but also realize we do need to go.)