42 years ago, NASA was really something

Today… not so much… but back then, oh yes, something indeed. 

I was a 9 year old boy, living in Spain with my Spanish grandparents (Dad was stationed in nearby Torrejon Air Base, my birthplace) and I distinctly remember being awakened to join the entire family in watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon while Michael Collins orbited above them, awaiting their safe return to the Command module and eventually, hopefully Earth.  It was exhilarating, scary, exciting and something I’ll never forget.  Little did I know that a couple of months later, I’d have the opportunity to briefly see all three of them in person in Madrid as part of their worldwide tour, a junket purposed in highlighting that great achievement.  I actually stood within 20 or 30 feet of men who had been to another world, catching a glimpse of them each through the crowd that had gathered, my Dad making sure that I had the opportunity to lay my eyes on them all.  I was enthralled.  I wanted right then and there to be an Astronaut.  I wanted to be Neil Armstrong.  Hell, I still do.

Those were definitely the days for NASA and for the country.  American exceptionalism at its finest.  A time when, if only for a moment, Americans set aside differences and united in applauding one of Man’s greatest, if not the greatest, achievements.   It makes seeing what NASA has become all the more difficult.

To help commemorate and perhaps even recapture some of that excitement, if only for the briefest of moments, I’m embedding this video I found over at Maggie’s Farm.  Set aside some time to sit and enjoy it… and reminisce with me about a very special time in American history, hell, in World history:

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  • Sigh.

    We were reaching for the stars – and we pissed it away.

  • Long ago in a Polity far away…

  • Anonymous

    NASA engineers rocked.  Management sucked!

  • Anonymous

    For one brief, shining moment, it seemed that there was nothing that a society of free people could not do. We were a society of imagination, progress, and hope.

    Now, of course, we are a society of getting more free stuff.

  • Anonymous

    I had a front row seat for all of NASA’s programs and a lot of the kid’s I ran with had parents that were NASA engineers here in Huntsville. We could ride our bicycles out to Bldg 4200* on Redstone Arsenal where a lot of the parents worked and go to the NASA publicity office to get stickers, flight patches and posters. We went to the NASA picnics and mingled with astronauts and engineers although to us back then the astronauts were like gods.

    I remember the moon landing, I sat in front of our B&W TV with my 2 1/4 Yashica and took pictures.(No VCR back then) Those times were indeed the crowning pinnacle of NASA’s greatness, man on the freaking moon.

    After the Saturn program ended and before the Shuttle program kicked in it was like it is now. Mass layoffs, engineers and techs leaving to find jobs elsewhere. Thanks for nothing Obama, you killed off the rest of the space exploration programs and turned NASA into a weather forecasting and Islamic outreach program.

    * Bldg 4200 was where Werner Von Braun’s office was, 7th floor.

  • Frank O’Connell

    Just another example of what happens when government funding shrinks — innovation shrinks too.

    Funny how those who hope to “conserve” America are actually best at destroying the better parts of it…

    • The main reason we dumped the Space Program in the ’70s, Frank, was to transfer a lot of the funding to social programs.  We were wasting money, you see, building those rockets and employing people and buying things from businesses, and developing things that other businesses might want and that other people might need.

      Like your computer?  Thank NASA – they pushed hard to get components as small as possible, and as energy efficient.  Your standard CAR now has more CPU power than the mainframes they were using in the ’60s and ’70s.  Innovation in materials, health sciences, all sorts of subjects… NASA got the ball rolling, but it was the private sector that really pushed it along.  (You really think we’d have things like cell phones as capable as they are and flatscreen LCD TVs now if it’d just been the government pushing things along?)

      No, the money was needed elsewhere, for social justice.  The Democrats were QUITE insistent that the money would be put to much better use by feeding the ever-hungry social programs that brought them votes.  So good jobs went away.  Thriving companies disappeared.  NASA was put on a starvation diet – and frankly, I’m amazed they managed to do as well as they did.  They stayed alive, and did some pretty neat shit on a shoestring budget.  No PR efforts like the ’60s – there just wasn’t the money to promote what they could do, and frankly – people had other things to attend to.

      Look up in the sky, Frank.  See the orbiting geosynchronous space stations?  See the Moon colony? See the Mars expedition assembling in high Earth orbit?  See the potential, the amazing things we created that sparked generations of kids into learning much more about science than they would have otherwise?  That gave them a dream of an even more amazing future, a chance to escape the not-so-great areas they were in?  

      You don’t see them?  

      Neither do I.

      Look around the inner cities, Frank. See what a few trillion in ‘social justice’ handouts over the last four decades has bought.  Subsistence living – and lots of folks who were happy to get by most of their lives on the meager handouts the government gutted the Space Program to provide.

      Instead of providing a dream, and jobs and who knows what – they provided the equivalent of 3 MREs a day and a roof over their heads.  Oh – and lots and lots of locked in votes.  We mustn’t forget the real reason for all that government largess, after all.  A lot of badly educated people, barely employable, dependent on handouts, conditioned to vote “D” on election day to keep the checks coming in.

      That’s the future the Democrats bought with the money from NASA in the ’70s and ’80s.

      That’s the future we’re in.

      Was the price paid worth it?

      • Anonymous

        “The main reason we dumped the Space Program in the ’70s, Frank, was to transfer a lot of the funding to social programs.”

        Funny that, it appears that history has repeated itself yet again. With Obama at the helm there’s no telling where we’ll be going, but there’s gonna be one hell of a crater at the LZ.

  • Does anyone here have the heart to enlighten the O’Connell troll as to which party it was (cough, Proxmire, cough) who started NASA’s long budgetary decline into irrelevancy?

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure a couple of trillion dollar wars had nothing to do with cutting the space program.

    • Meiji Man

      If that’s a fact it’s too bad the left couldn’t elect a President to pull us out of those wars, but as screwed up as they are, they’d probably just elect some social worker who would do nothing to end those wars except for moving a few troops around for show, he probably wouldn’t close Gitmo and would probably get us involved in a few more skirmishes, including one in North Africa with no goal or mission concept. ( although he damn sure would have permission from the U.N.!) But there would still be thousands a bleating sheep filling up the Internet baa-ing “4 legs good, 2 legs better!”

      • Found this bit interesting…

        Meanwhile, as a percentage of GDP, American military spending continues a decline that has been going on since the 1960s (when, because of the Vietnam war, defense spending was 10.7 percent of GDP). That went down to 5.9 percent of GDP in the 1970s and, despite a much heralded defense buildup in the 1980s, still declined in the 1980s (to 5.8 percent.) With the end of the Cold War, spending dropped sharply again in the 1990s, to 4.1 percent. For the first decade of the 21st century, defense spending is expected to average 3.5 percent of GDP. Most of the current defense budget is being spent on personnel (payroll and benefits), and buying new equipment to replace the Cold War era stuff that is wearing out and to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This trend is all because of the industrial revolution of the 19th century, which created a lot more money, much of which nations promptly squandered on wars they could not have afforded earlier.

        U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have, since September 11, 2001, cost about $1.2 trillion. That seems like a lot, and it is. But it’s not a lot like it used to be. For example, World War II cost, at the time (in current dollars) $4.1 trillion dollars. That amounted to over 33 percent of U.S. GDP. The current war on terror is costing about one percent of GDP. So while war may appear to be getting more expensive, relative to the amount of money available, it’s actually getting cheaper.


        Of course, that doesn’t count the standing costs.  Again, percentagewise of GDP, it’s not bad.

        As far as the NASA budget goes – looks like they’re getting more also.


        Page 4.  2010 – about $18.7 bil.  2011 – $19 bil, 2012 – $19.450

        Sometimes we put the emphasis on the wrong damn things…