Whitey on the Moon
Alongside the nationalist mythmaking and the hypermasculine preoccupation with “bigness” you’d expect to find at a place like the Kennedy Space Center there’s a fin de siècle affect of nostalgia for empire nearly everywhere you turn. Never really sure how to celebrate its post-Apollo failures in the first place, the KSC staff appears to have been completely demoralized by the retiring of the Space Shuttle and the Obama administration’s recent decision to cancel the Ares project, with nearly every employee we heard speak during our tour giving voice to their dejection in one way or another.
As I’ve mentioned several times before, I find I’m totally conflicted on the value of manned space exploration. On the one hand I think the myth of space colonization is both hugely wasteful and politically pernicious; I don’t think the species is ever leaving Earth in significant numbers and as a consequence there are almost certainly better ways to spend our money than pretending that we might.
On the other hand I have to admit I was moved to tears during the Center’s long program detailing Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon and the attendant global celebration, which remains such a singular human achievement that I’d pay almost any price to live to see it someday replicated by an international mission to Mars. Intellectually I am able to look critically at the military-industrial-academic underpinings of the NASA missions and recognize the state interests and imperial ideologies at work in them, but emotionally it’s as if loving this stuff is coded in my DNA. I just can’t help it. I think manned space exploration is almost certainly pointless but I deeply, deeply hope I turn out to be wrong.