This Week in History
November 15-21, 2015
U.S. Astronauts Return to the Lunar Surface
November 19, 1969
by Richard W. Burden
Is it possible for humans to do more outside the earth's atmosphere than operate a satellite TV service, send a probe, or send a few people to plant a flag and come back quickly, or do some carefully prepared experiments packaged in small boxes aboard an earth-orbiting vehicle? In 1969, the United States still thought so. That's why, just four months after the first manned lunar landing, U.S. astronauts returned, this time to survey and gather samples from an area of the moon ranging up to a quarter-mile from the landing vehicle, in two 3-hour-plus sessions of extra-vehicular activity.
These missions suddenly stopped just a little over 3 years later, never to be resumed, until finally China starts a series of robotic lunar missions in 2007, completing the world's first successful soft lunar landing since 1972 in 2013. Richard Nixon was re-elected by a landslide in 1972, and was very eager to claim credit for the successful Apollo missions of his first term, so why did he nix them in his second term? Why wasn't the program restored after he was impeached and forced to resign in 1974? In 2010, President Barack Obama unlawfully impounded the funds for Project Constellation, declaring that we've already been to the moon and do not need to go back. (See also the overview of Project Constellation). Why do the people of the U.S.A. put up with this?
During the 1960s there were many top-level political assassinations that eliminated leaders who could be counted on to defend our civil liberties and our right to dignified employment. It's not hard to figure out who ordered these assassinations, and why, yet Confederate flags still fly, and the Albert Pike statue still stands in downtown D.C., protected and maintained by the National Park Service. And the British royalty, the creators of the Confederacy and of racist colonies worldwide, are always welcome in the United States. The Saudi royalty, another British royal creation, sponsors of terrorism with whom the British royalty collaborate closely, are also welcome. To understand why Americans caved in to tyranny so readily when their best leaders were assassinated, one has to look further back, to 1900, when British imperial agents Bertrand Russell and David Hilbert bullied professors into substituting formal logic or mathematics for the Socratic scientific method of hypothesis, accusing those who opposed, even Bernhard Riemann, of "lack of rigor". To be rigorous, then, meant to follow the rules of logic from presently accepted assumptions, which will surely prevent people from correctly identifying the assassins, as Edgar Allan Poe reveals in his short stories.
The soft landing of a sophisticated rover on the surface of Mars, powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator that will enable it to work day and night for several decades, if all the other systems last that long, is worth celebrating, but with nothing happening on the moon, this is not progress. The rover Curiosity on Mars does not employ any technology that had not been developed before or during the Apollo missions. Even the computer chips, which are much smaller and faster than anything that was available, at any price, in the 1960s and 70s, are just refinements of the technology that existed in the early 1960s: the silicon wafer. Because we have made no effort to industrialize the moon and exploit its resources, not only is our ability to do things on Mars crippled, the technological spinoffs from the space program today are little else than refinements of existing technologies. The U.S. space program has been reduced to banality through privatization, with one of the old astronauts infamously starring in an Axe deodorant commercial. And just to make sure the joy of discovery does not escape its coffin, collaboration with China in space missions is banned by the U.S. government!