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Fascism and Big Business by Daniel Guerin

Friday, July 21, 2017

Joseph Hansen on 1969 moon landing

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Joseph Hansen:

The age-old fantasy of reaching the moon finally became a reality. The feat consti-
tutes a major milestone in the history of
mankind, particularly the development of
science.

Watching the coverage of the event on
television, who could fail to be impressed
by the technological level that has now
been reached?

First of all, that man's first steps on
another planet could be viewed by millions
of persons all around our own globe
at the very moment these steps were taken
would hardly have been credible only a
few years ago. This advance itself is one
of the fantastic consequences of the space
age with its Telestar relay system.

Equally remarkable was the display of
reliability, not to mention clarity in voice
and image, of the communications system
linking the astronauts with their Houston
base. How much depended on this can be
judged by what would have happened to
Armstrong and Aldrin after they landed
if a single link in this system had failed.
Even more impressive was the revela-
tion of the sophistication reached in the
computers that carried out the continual
calculations as to the orbits and rendez-
vous of the two space ships. Hardly born,
the computer is already automated, mini-
aturized, coupled with radar and brought
to a level of dependability that spoke for
itself in the Apollo 11 mission.

As to the power of the jet engines, this
met all the requirements long laid down
by the better science-fiction writers.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature
of the entire mission was its superb orga-
nizational level- at least this was what
struck many Americans, who incline to
be connoisseurs of the organizational side
of human endeavors, ranging from the
performance of teams in the field of sports
to work forces numbering in the tens and
hundreds of thousands.

Most of the labor in the Apollo 11 mission
went into planning and preparation, the
actual mission representing only a live
performance of drills already performed
thousands of times. The contrast to ex-
ploration in previous centuries was strik-
ing, a convenient gauge happening to be
available in the news about the failure of
Thor Heyerdahl's attempt to cross the
Atlantic in a papyrus-reed boat.

The truth is, of course, that an enter-
prise of the scope of this one -like the
successful production of the atomic bomb-
is beyond the capacity of private enter-
prise. Only a government could assemble
500,000 persons, allot $24 billion, make
available the resources of the Army, Navy,
and Air Force in a concentrated effort
of such breadth for almost a decade. Which
does not mean, of course, that it was not
a highly profitable business for the compa-
nies that got the contracts. An accounting
on this would be highly revealing....

Hansen concludes:

....What can be achieved through central-
ized organization and the application of
scientific knowledge has been shown in a
way that will sink deep into the conscious-
ness of the masses.

Why can't similar organization and
scientific knowledge be applied to make
our everyday lives more secure and liv-
able? If we can go to the moon, why can't
we assure food for everyone? Provide de-
cent housing? Adequate medical services?

Guaranteed yearly incomes? An end to war?

It is now all the harder for the powers
that be to dismiss such questions as uto-
pian. They proved that itwas even possible to go to the moon!

Before too long science may thus have
its revenge on those who have diverted
it to inhuman ends-to profit-making at
the expense of human needs, to mass
murder, to the construction of fiendish
weapons capable of exterminating man-
kind.

New layers of humanity will now see
in a more vivid way how insane capi-
talism has become and what a world
could be built if the technological base
humanity has constructed could be placed
at the disposal of the people and utilized
in accordance with rational planning.

The most important feature of the Apollo
11 triumph may yet be the impact it has
on bringing man, the tool-making animal,
to realize that he has become sufficiently
skilled with tools, and that now he must
master his social and economic relations
if he is not to perish from what the tool
has become.

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