The Apollo moon landings were fake.
I don't mean that they did not occur - it was before I was born, but it seems clear that men did at one time walk on the Moon. There are too many independent confirmations of that for it to be in any reasonable doubt. However, the Apollo Moon landings occurred under false pretences. The story told about the factual events, both at the time and now, was and is a dishonest story, carefully constructed to further the goals of the US government and certain other powerful forces.
Today is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing - the famous one - at the height of the Summer of Love in 1969. I was recently pointed at this piece by Jim Wright from five years ago. He says, and I agree, that nothing has changed since; the article is as true today as it ever was. He writes:
In that one moment, the entire human race was as close to united as it has ever been, black, white, brown, yellow and red, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, atheists, and agnostics, from the most sophisticated rocket scientists at NASA and Star City to the most primitive bushman, capitalists and communists and socialists and the left and the right and the undecided all stared at the moon in abject wonder and shivered at the smallness of man against the vast and terrible backdrop of the universe. They cried and they cheered and they hugged random strangers in the streets. They marveled at what men could do if only they dared dream big enough and they all wished the crew of Apollo 11 Godspeed.
Well, maybe they all really did. I wasn't there. But if they all really believed that, then they all were sold a bill of goods. Wright goes on to bewail how brave men turned into cowards, we stepped off the shining path, and the dream died. But here's the thing: it was only ever a dream.
Apollo didn't happen because of the Indomitable Spirit of Man refusing to be confined or limited. This may come as a blow to those of us who grew up reading science fiction and believing the line about how expansion into space was necessary for human survival, but it wasn't about asteroid insurance or colonizing the stars or anybody's manifest destiny in the many-thousands-of-years future either. It was a political stunt, made to score points on Earth, and unrelated to the heavens. It was all political, right from the start. The USA sent men to the Moon to prove that they were able to do so before the Russians could.
The Russians cancelled their man-on-the-Moon project when it became clear they couldn't get there first. Why? Did the Spirit of Man suddenly become less Indomitable for some reason? Weren't there still a lot of unanswered questions to investigate, and Lunar mountains to climb and marae to explore? Did the science they were planning to do suddenly become less scientifically interesting for some reason? No... everybody knew that the point of the exercise wasn't something up there, it was something down here: showing up the Americans. And when that was no longer possible, the whole project was no longer valuable. I don't know if Kennedy would have done the same as his Russian counterpart if the situation were reversed, but you bet Nixon would've.
Similarly, the Americans ended the man-on-the-Moon project after they had won their political point. As Wright says, there were still plenty of reasons - reasons convincing to him, convincing to me, maybe convincing to you - to keep going there and further. He asks how we (and it's interesting to think about what group he thinks "we" refers to) could have lost our courage. But it was never about courage or science or the Indomitable Spirit of Man. It was about politics. It was about the votes, the dollars, and the television ratings. It was about the missiles. And any starry-eyed hippies who swallowed the hook about how it was something bigger, well, they were swallowing exactly what Nixon and company wanted them to swallow.
In that sense the Apollo landings were fake. They were scripted and stage-managed in a much more subtle and insidious way than is ever dreamed by the wackos who claim it happened on a soundstage in Hollywood. Yes, we really went to the Moon - but we went there for political reasons right here on Earth and to firmly cement the question of who decides who is "we."
As Wright describes, the plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 11 was signed by four men: the three who actually went there and Richard Nixon. Because he was President of the USA, and that really does matter on the Moon. The denial of political motives is the strongest possible affirmation of political motives.
"The Eagle has landed." Hey, why an eagle? Sure, eagles are cool, they exemplify various important qualities that human beings might like to emulate, but lots of animals do. If that were all it was about, they could just as easily have picked some other animal to name their spacecraft after, right? So yeah, Armstrong could just as well have gone on that radio saying "The Bear has landed." Except he really couldn't, and you know damn well why.
You know what's the difference between an astronaut, a cosmonaut, or even God help us a "taikonaut"? Which gang he's affiliated with on Earth. And why do we have separate words for these men? Because we all really care a lot about that. (I don't even know what you call a space traveller if he's from India, but well we're going to have to decide that, aren't we?) Why is the "International" Space Station called that, and why does it exist at all? Because someone was trying to make a point right here on Earth; denial as affirmation again. And don't even get me started on the Apollo-Soyuz docking missions.
Apollo wasn't about proving what men could do. It was about proving what the USA could do.
Space was always political. You and I can maybe think of a lot of important reasons why "we" should be in space - but honestly, most of the ones that are actually real are better served by sending robots. They are cheaper; they weigh less, which matters a lot and matters more the further you're sending them; they are less fragile, particularly with respect to acceleration and radiation; and they don't need to be brought back afterward. There aren't many justifications for manned spaceflight that hold up under rational examination except for politics and proving big important points about the Indomitable Spirit of Man, and that latter however beloved just isn't worth enough to the real decision makers to justify the price tag. Space was always expensive, and it's not going to get much cheaper because the basic physics of rockets isn't going to change.
The Russians, for the moment at least though that could change with the winds blowing in Ukraine, are not the enemy now. President Obama said the USA was going to Mars, and now if they do or not it will be about proving what a black man can do, politically, or else some esoteric point interesting only within the USA about taxation and budgets within the USA. It will have nothing to do with what man can do, even though Obama has a rare talent, at least on Kennedy's level, at delivering beautiful speeches about the Indomitable Spirit of Man.
Many readers will probably have noticed by now that I have been referring to the generic human being as male. Those familiar with my other work will know that it's not my usual habit, and will have guessed that I'm doing it this time on purpose. I don't know, maybe some not familiar with my other work have already quit reading in disgust just because of that, and maybe some are gearing up to fight with me about it in the comment section, or to slink off to their own corners of the Net to cowardly attack me there. If you're one of those, shame on you. You are the problem I'm talking about, trying to make the discussion be about your petty Earthbound politics. Today, but only today, some of the big political issues that people think are important in space happen to be about choosing between "he" or "she." In 1969, that wasn't on the radar and the big political issues that people thought were important in space were about choosing "John" or "Ivan." Space hasn't changed; only Earth's politics have changed.
This is a good point at which to consider Sally Ride. You almost certainly recognize the name. Why do you know it? What is Sally Ride famous for?
Not famous for being the first person in space. That was Yuri Gagarin, or at least he got the credit for it. Stories are told that there were other Russians before him who made it to space but died in the process and their deaths were hushed up. I don't know how credible those stories are. Gagarin died in a plane crash when he was in his mid-thirties; conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the best available evidence is that it was a simple accident.
Not famous for being the first woman in space. That may be a silly thing to care about, but someone could make an argument that with some undeniable biological differences between men's and women's bodies there is something new and different about sending a woman to space even after you've missed the boat on the "first human" record. Anyway, Valentina Tereshkova is credited as first woman in space. She went on to a career in Russian politics, serving in turn as member of the Supreme Soviet, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Throughout the manned spaceflight era, people cared a lot about the USA/Russia thing, so maybe it would make sense to ask who was the first American in space. That wasn't Sally Ride, it was John Glenn. He went on to serve in the United States Senate. Even in Canada nobody cares who was the first Canadian in space, but it was Marc Garneau - Member of Parliament for Westmount-Ville-Marie. Manned spaceflight is political!
Sally Ride was probably the first homosexual in space. Lots of people today think that's pretty cool, but it was shameful in the USA at the time, so it was hushed up, the public didn't know until many years later, and it's certainly not why she's famous. It's still shameful in Russia today, so if the Russians actually beat the Americans on this record too, it may be many more years before we'll find out.
No, what Sally Ride is famous for is that she was the "first American woman in space." Described as such in those words in all the space-for-kids books (except, probably, for the significant number of them which she wrote) as if it's something about which we all should care a lot. We are so hung up on our political categories that we'd rather combine them into finer and finer subdivisions to make up an excuse to care about someone, than actually think about what's important about her and her work and accomplishments.
The first black person in space was Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez. You probably haven't heard of him because he is a Cuban citizen of African ancestry who flew with the Russians - and currently serving in the Cuban National Assembly. Slightly more famous in the English-speaking world is Guion Bluford, who has similar status to Sally Ride - he wasn't the first American or the first black person in space, but the first to combine the two into a more finely divided subcategory. It may be telling that he is nonetheless less famous than Ride, but that too is strictly a matter of Earth-based politics and says little or nothing about space or the real persons involved.
"Divide and conquer" is a basic precept of social control. The forces that want us to divide ourselves into groups with lines in between and really care about those lines, are exactly the same forces that want us to think that "we" (but not actually you and me) are proving something big and important about the Human Spirit and absolutely not about petty politics, with spaceflight. And yet, somehow, in order to pursue that noble goal, there'll always be someone who needs our vote or our money or our retweets because those are political currency now too, all right here on Earth.
I'm not here to say that human space travel will always be about politics. And if someone did something you consider noble and inspiring that's great and maybe you should continue to feel inspired no matter what the actual reasons for it at the time might have been. I don't call on anyone to give up their sources of inspiration.
But if you think inspiration was the real reason for the exercise, and if you think more such exercises should be supported just to provide more inspiration and prove a point about the Indomitable Spirit of Man or of Woman or of Humanity or whoever you think "we" are, then you are not just a fool but a dangerous fool and you'd better stop it. Because in such a case you're vulnerable to the next Nixon, who will twist your feelings to her own petty political ends and distract you with divide-and-conquer tactics setting woman against man, gay against straight, black against white, or - far more likely - some completely different excuse for creating arbitrary divisions that will surprise me when I discover it too late.
Space doesn't care about you. The vacuum will kill you just as dead whether you have a Stars and Stripes or a Hammer and Sickle patch on your uniform and just as dead no matter how much pussy you admit to eating. Space doesn't care about us. For all the inspirational stories you can tell about how many gajillion years it'll be before the footprints on the Moon fade away, nobody cares except human beings. The whole thing has no meaning except the meaning you assign to it. And you and I are not going to space; we really aren't, basic back-of-the-envelope calculations on the energy requirements for launch quickly show how hopeless to send any significant fraction of the Earth's population into orbit - and if you're an ordinary person then you're not going unless a whole lot of other equally qualified persons are going. We're just too heavy, and those laws of physics are not going to go away. Space colonization if it ever happens will happen by sending a few people from Earth and then their children become the colonists, and with seven billion people on Earth today, many more before it happens, you won't be one of those few. You can buy a tourist ticket if you have a few tens of millions of dollars to spend on it, but in that case you're part of the problem. A space elevator would be a game changer on the physics point but that won't happen soon and maybe won't happen ever, and the reasons are political again.
The rational conclusion is that space travel for human beings in general, and the Apollo Moon landings in particular, are myths. That doesn't mean they are not factual; it means that whether they are factual is not what's important about them. Myths can be inspiring; myths can be valuable; but myths can also be very dangerous if we allow myths to control our motivations and we allow other people to control the myths
Human space travel has always been all about politics in the past. It is currently all about politics. It is not reasonable to expect it to be about anything other than politics in the future unless we can make really drastic changes to how we think about, how we fund, and how we organize international and broadly diverse participation in large scientific projects. Space cannot, it must not, be about proving that "we" are better than "them" for any values of "we" and "them." All human beings in the 2010s had better start thinking rationally about making those changes before we get too misty-eyed about the 1960s, and we had better both find ways to be inspired closer to home, and come up with reasons we can more honestly describe and justify for why space exploration is important.