There will be many retrospectives this week on the half-century anniversary of Kennedy’s speech. Here’s one from The Economist, that reads like they’ve been reading me for a while:
To many Americans, neglecting human space flight this way looks like a sorry end to the glorious chapter Kennedy opened half a century ago. He set out to make America’s achievements in space an emblem of national greatness, and the project succeeded. Yet it did not escape the notice of critics even at the time that this entailed an irony. The Apollo programme, which was summoned into being in order to demonstrate the superiority of the free-market system, succeeded by mobilising vast public resources within a centralised bureaucracy under government direction. In other words, it mimicked aspects of the very command economy it was designed to repudiate.
Exactly. Well, not exactly. One of the reasons that they did it this way (as I pointed out in my recent debate with Bob Zubrin) was that it wasn’t intended to be a demonstration of the free-market system:
There was a reason that Apollo ended over forty years ago. It had accomplished its mission, which was not to go to the moon, but to demonstrate that democratic socialism was superior to totalitarian communism in terms of technological prowess, which it did when Apollo 8 flew around the moon in 1968, and the Soviets gave up and pretended they had never been racing.
In any event, few people have any conception of how much Apollo warped our perception of how to explore and develop space, because they have no other framework in which to think about it. But that will change over the next few years as private entities start to show how Americans do space in a more traditional American way.