The President’s “Sputnik Moment”

Even without hearing the president’s speech tonight, as a space policy analyst, whenever I hear about a “Sputnik moment” from a politician, I shudder, because I can be almost certain that it will have nothing whatsoever to do with Sputnik, let alone space policy. It will likely be guaranteed to be a foolish and false analogy, just like “…if we can land a man on the moon, why can’t we…”.

Sputnik (like Apollo) was a unique event in American (and perhaps even human) history. It was the heart of the Cold War. We were in an existential battle with an enemy (the Soviet Union) about the capability to bombard each other with nuclear weapons. Both adversaries were developing rockets, with help from captured Germans from the recent world war. We got the cream of the crop, because Von Braun had decided that he had better prospects to pursue his dreams of planetary exploration by humans with the American ideals, and had consciously escaped to the west with his hand-picked team. He was ever the pragmatist with his ambitions (including his looking the other way at Dora and other Nazi work/death camps that supported his rocket program during the war).

But of course, the president’s speech had nothing to do with that. It was about…other things…that have nothing to do with Sputnik, in either analogy or reality.

Sputnik was about pure, raw, technological skill, in an area in which we felt vulnerable at the time.

It had nothing to do with what made America exceptional.

Look, if the president wants to talk about space, then I’m all in favor of it. But, given his political proclivities, I’m glad he doesn’t. Let’s just not talk about what a “Sputnik moment” it was.

The Puritan Political Tradition

…and the modern left:

Over the centuries, New England has changed its theology while remaining loyal to its cultural foundations. The Calvinist orthodoxy of the seventeenth century yielded increasingly to Deism and Unitarianism in the eighteenth — and Harvard officially became Unitarian in 1803, dropping its belief in the divinity of Christ. In the nineteenth century literary and intellectual New England hedged its bets, backing a range of horses from Emersonian transcendentalism to the more evangelically flavored Calvinism of the Victorian years. During the second half of the twentieth century the mind of New England became more secular than in past generations– but nothing has ever changed the deep belief in this cultural stream that, however defined, morality exists and that it is the job of the state to enforce true morals and uphold right thinking.

They’re just prudes about different things.

“There Is No Birth Certificate In Hawaii”

I wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out that the president was born overseas and his enablers have been covering it up (because their behavior certainly matches that theory), but Neil Abercrombie apparently was. I thought it was pretty strange that he decided to raise the issue again, after the political class had declared it dead, but obviously he really believed it. No way it goes away now.

[Update a while later]

For those who don’t understand the implications of this, Neil Abercrombie, self-declared boyhood friend of Barack (“Barry” at the time) Obama, and new governor of the state of Hawai’, declared war on the “birthers” last month, saying that he was going to release the document and put all of the rumors to rest:

Abercrombie said he was going to work with the attorney general of Hawaii to release additional documentation of Obama’s birth on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital.

In other words, he has both the motivation and power to find that document, if it exists. What this radio interview indicates is that he has not been able to find it, and that his faith is shaken. I’ve always assumed that the reason they were hiding the document was that it had something politically embarrassing on it (e.g., that his religion was stated as “Muslim” or that Barack Obama was not listed as the father). But now I’m starting to wonder myself where he was really born.

The Battle For The Moon

Joe Pappalardo target=”_ “deflates Mark Whittington’s favorite space fantasy. Over the past half century, the Pentagon has never found any compelling use for military man in space commensurate with the cost. That could change if the cost comes down dramatically, but there was nothing in NASA’s Constellation plans to make that happen. The new programs offer much more hope in that regard, if they can survive the coming budget tsunami.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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