Opinion: Space program driven by a vision for the common good of mankind
By Bob Berwyn
If I were to give Mitt Romney the benefit of the doubt after his acceptance speech, I would say his reference to the moon landing was a plea for national unity on crucial issues, or an appeal to find common ground to move ahead toward goals all Americans can support.
But in reality, the lines were inserted by his committee of speech writers as a grasping reference to current events. And Romney managed to turn even this shining example of the American can-do spirit at its best into a shrill pitch for nationalism and American exceptionalism.
And it’s beyond ironic that he chose the space program, which illustrates American collectivism at its best — not to mention that it was initiated by a president who would repudiate nearly all of Romney’s notions of what it means to be American.
When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins rode that Saturn V rocket out of the Earth’s atmosphere on a pillar of fire, when Aldrin maneuvered the Eagle lander into lunar orbit, and when Armstrong took that first step, they were building on the work of thousands of men and women, some working for the government, some for private aerospace companies, but all united in a mission dedicated to furthering all of humanity.
Remember what Armstrong said as he stepped off that ladder: “One giant leap for mankind.”
It wasn’t one man, or one company, that developed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft that led us so swiftly and surely to our first steps on the moon. It was a huge collective of pooled talent working under the guidance of dedicated civil servants — employees of the government that Romney and his party want to discredit and dismantle.
Instead of acknowledging any of that, Romney tried to turn the moon landing into a signpost for American exceptionalism. And while it’s true that no other nation has repeated the trip, Romney’s take also ignores the evolution of space exploration since then.
Based partly on fiscal realities, but also on the understanding that space exploration is part of the future of all mankind, the U.S. has partnered with dozens of nations, including former enemies, to pursue science — once again, not for the financial gain of a private company, but for the overall benefit of all people.
I wasn’t really expecting much more from Romney and his party, The more they trumpet their vision for America’s future, the more obvious it becomes they’re actually longing for a return to the past in so many ways, from social and economic policies, to a world where an American superpower is dominant.
It’s a fundamental Republican weakness, and it will make our country weaker, not stronger, because we will, if we follow that path, isolate ourselves and ultimately be left standing alone in the dust of history as the world moves into the future.