Wednesday, 21 July 2010

They never did find the Clangers

Today's the 41st anniversary of the moon landing (or if you spend too much time on the internet, of the faked moon landing).

It's one of those events which brings into conflict two sides of me. The romantic, childlike side of me will never stop admiring the decision to go to space, against all the odds. Likewise, the sadness of the missions is stamped on me: the pointlessness (Shepard played golf there, FFS), the danger, that photograph, the isolation.

The adult, rational, Marxist side of me is much more cynical. The moon landings achieved nothing other than to intimidate the Russians and develop more sophisticated weaponry. They were overseen by Wernher von Braun, a Nazi whose skills meant he never had to say he was sorry. The moon program can be seen as an expensive way of diverting Americans' attention from Vietnam, from the Cold War, from campus protester killings, from the mass starvation and environmental destruction which characterises day to day life.

Perhaps, too, the moon landings were the last hurrah of a technology-based superpower, of a nation which believed that new gadgets would give them freedom and domination for ever. Instead, the space program is a sad shadow of its former self - see J G Ballard's Hello America, Myths of the Near Future and The Terminal Beach for the heartbreaking melancholy of post-space America, all drained pools and ex-astronauts going mad under the derelict towers of Cape Canaveral. Technology is more democratically available than ever envisaged, and the Big Industry of the US is in dire straits, undercut by the Chinese and soon, by India (both of which want a space programme for bragging rights too).

The space program then was perhaps a fantasy of simplicity - the fragile men alone in the void - away from the complications and demands of everyday life and other people. But it's a fantasy I like to entertain in more emotional moments.

So -what do you think? Noble endeavour? Triumph of technology? Pointless diversion? All three?


neal said...

I dunno, I think that's the only circumstance I can think of when playing golf would make me say 'Whoa that's fucking cool'. I'd have definitely tried to see if I could boot a football into orbit or try to see how far I could jump.

When I was a kid I wondered if we ever managed to terraform Mars and the Olympics were held there that we'd need Mars records and Earth records as the gravity is about a third of what it is on the Earth. The high jump would be cool as fuck.

Anonymous said...

The Plashing Vole said...

Yes, I saw that yesterday too. Very funny.

Zoot Horn said...

I saw the moon landing live of course... Sitting up into the wee hours I can remember the tension caused by wondering when my dad would finally get bored and go to bed so I could nick one of his ciggies.