Volume 11 Nr. 6, Issue 127
I, like many other young people during the 1960s, was obsessed with the prospect of human space travel. I would take every opportunity during the many dull moments of my high school education, doodling and drawing space program related images. I drew the Mercury, Gemini, and then Apollo space capsules, Atlas Redstone rocket, Titan, Delta, Saturn C-5, gantry and escape towers and re-entry scenarios. My classmates and I would debate incessantly whether Mars or Venus was more likely to have life. When President Kennedy announced that men would walk on the moon by the end of the 1960s, I dreamed of and looked forward to that day for almost a decade. I memorized the names of all the astronauts chronologically, not just the U.S. astronauts such as Alan Shepherd, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, etc. of Project Mercury, but also the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin, a fellow ham radio operator and the first person to orbit the Earth, Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, etc. Like millions of people world-wide on July 21, 1969, I watched the live video feed from the moon as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the small step for man and giant step for mankind. I bit my nails as the LEM or Lunar Excursion Module exploded its hold -down clamps and made its rendezvous with the Lunar Orbiter for the trip back home.
Along with all the excitement of the scientific achievements of the late sixties, there stirred a consciousness nagging at the end of the pretty celebratory rainbow. The gloriously packaged triumphs delivered via the "new medium" of color television came alongside images of mayhem and slaughter in Vietnam. The 60s began with the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The world almost ended with a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba and Turkey. The assassinations of Medger Evers, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., emphasized the contradictions between accomplishment and atrocity. The decade ended with the United States flag planted on the moon protruding on a spring like virile manhood predating Viagra counterpoised by the blood stains of millions killed in Southeast Asia. By the end of 1970 the entire space program revealed not just its shades of military involvement, but the glowing, searing spotlight of it.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial-complex. He made reference to the dangers inherent in a system where the corporations take over the government. Man could now step on the moon, packaging and selling his footprint as a forward moving human accomplishment while at the same time, thanks to Monsanto, drop seventy-two-million liters of the sickness-causing defoliant, Agent Orange, on a nation fighting for national liberation. Man could communicate within seconds to people on the lunar surface while simultaneously destroying villages in Vietnam in order to save them. Was there any connection between space exploration and war? People stirred with the rumblings that the military-industrial-complex and the space program were one and the same. Eisenhower said,
Forty years later, the George W. Bush administration has announced a new space initiative. This at a time when the New Military Industrial Complex as envisioned by the conservative think tanks, the Center for Security Policy, the National Institute for Public Policy and the Project for a New American Century, mock Eisenhower. The New Military Industrial Complex and its preventive war on Iraq is exactly what Eisenhower warned against. The United States populace, when it consumes the "news" is constantly maneuvered into ignorance. It is kept fearful and oblivious of opinions and attitudes outside the United States, especially those regarding the war on Iraq and U.S. designs for global hegemony. And what of Eisenhower's, "peaceful methods and goals"? They no longer exist. So, now we're going to Mars via a permanent science base on the moon. What for? Simple, to invigorate the crumbling Bush regime and hide its failed domestic and foreign policy, a regime that suffers from what author, Robert J. Lifton calls, "Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World". And why now? Could it be that 2004 is an election year?
The neo-con think-tankers and the White House squandered the post 9-11 good will of the world. They fostered the further creation of enemies around the world through their arrogance and unilateralism. Now, they are prodding the Bush regime, to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to orbit humans around Mars. George W. Bush, you are neither a healer nor a visionary. Nor are you well-read, nor a philosopher, nor speaker, nor a statesman. You are, however, the figurehead of the New Military Industrial Complex, the antithesis of Eisenhower's "proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense". You are the obliteration of "peaceful methods and goals". The citizens of the United States are now supposed to be exhilarated that their tax money will, like the over-tightened flight suit stunt on the aircraft carrier, be squandered on showmanship rather than taking care of important issues on Earth. The forty-three-million people without health insurance in the United States have other priorities. The thirty-million that go to sleep hungry every day have more important concerns. The elderly who must choose between medication and paying the rent are hardly impressed.
I am not ready to say that I wasted my time and energy being enthralled about the space program while a young boy. I am convinced, however, that a nation that announces a trip to Mars as a national priority without resolving the above issues doesn't deserve the luxury of scattering its exploratory pollution and wasting its money on extraterrestrial endeavors. This trip to Mars is a trip via lunacy. It is a smokescreen and diversion from tackling the pressing problems that face the country. Why not a universal healthcare initiative? Why not an energy independence initiative? Because you see, this resident in the White House is the military-industrial-complex and there are huge profits to be made in feeding the beast instead. While the United States debt expands at $2.12 billion dollars per day and while domestic spending is being cut as a consequence, it hardly makes sense to send a few privileged human beings on a seventy-million mile round trip so they can look out the window, see red, and head home. If space needs exploration then perhaps, the space between the ears of the proponents of this idea requires closer scrutiny.
People naturally want to be proud of their country. I want to be proud that hunger no longer exists in the United States. I want to be proud that the elderly, disabled and infirm have what they need to live a decent life. I want to be proud that U.S. education is not only the best, but that higher education is affordable and available to the academically committed and willing. I want to be proud that my country is respected for its belief in liberty and justice for all, not feared for its might and irrationality foisted upon anyone that disagrees with it. I want to be proud that the best of what we stand for is life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all, not just for those who are "with us" in the quest to dominate and exploit the world. I want an initiative that benefits people not the military-industrial-complex. I want the United States to eliminate hunger and homelessness instead of awarding the military-industrial-complex hundreds of billions of dollars to build a fleet of new crew exploration vehicles (CEV) that might be ready for a mission to the moon by the year 2020. I want my country to establish the reality of energy independence, not build a base on the surface of the moon. I want schools to be a way station for achieving full employment and not an under-funded mandate that leaves our children behind. I want the lunacy to end.