Monday, July 20, 2009

A Great Achievement

Today is the 40th anniversary of the day when human beings first set foot on the moon - one of the all-time great events in human history.

An excerpt from Ayn Rand's article on Apollo 11 is online at the website of the Ayn Rand Institute:
. . . Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man’s highest potential.
A recording of her lecture, "Apollo and Dionysus" is also online at the Institute's site.


  1. No doubt, as Rand demonstrates the Apollo 11 mission was a testament to man's stubborn adherence to the virtue of rationality. However, my question is: was it necessary? Did the Apollo missions serve a purpose congruent with Objectivist politics? If the Apollo missions to the moon had not been initiated and the money required to finance those missions returned to taxpayers, could it be argued that Americans suffered a net loss as a result? I don't think so.

    The federal government could pull off the most spectacular feats of human ingenuity if it genuinely wanted too. Congress could siphon incalculable resources towards the construction of a mission to Mars today and the resulting mission, if successful, would be yet another testament to man. However, such an undertaking would be wildly imprudent from an economic and ethical perspective. The Soviets and the Nazis pulled off some scientifically significant ventures as well but you'll never hear us lauding them, and for good reason.

  2. "The Soviets and the Nazis pulled off some scientifically significant ventures as well . . . "

    Did they? I'm not so sure. I'm aware of their efforts which resulted in the V-2 - I'm also aware of their medical experiments on concentration camp internees. Does that qualify as 'significant'?

    The fact remains that the first step of human beings on the moon is a signal event in human history.

    Do I agree with the politics behind it? No. Would I feel the same way if the Soviets or Nazis had done it instead of the US? Probably not.

    Do I think the US government should be funding space exploration? No. Do I think private industry on a free market could do the job better? You're damn right I do! Am I dissappointed and frustrated when I read about the Apollo astronauts asking Obama to pursue a government-run expedition to Mars? That would be an understatement.

    Does any of that change the way I feel about Apollo 11?


  3. I forgot to specify that I was referring to the Nazis in regard to the V-2 and the medical experiments.

  4. The Soviets and the Third Reich made advances mostly in military hardware. The Nazis developed the first real weapons of mass destruction (that being effective nerve agent), pioneered jet propulsion systems on aircraft, essentially designed the modern main battle tank, you mention the V-2 as well (we even required the assistance of a former Third Reich scientist, Wernher von Braun, to proceed with the Apollo missions). The modern U.S military has incorporated much of German ingenuity into their own methods and materials, everthing from the helmets soldiers and Marines wear to the artillery systems they rely on overseas. "Significant" is an understatement.

    The medical experiements, by contrast, were fueled exclusively by interests in Nordic and pagan blood myths as well as the torture fetish of bored German scientists and have no scientific value to say the least. Did I strike you as a person who thinks that verminous experiments on innocents is significant in such a way? I certainly hope not. Nevertheless, those experiments can't persuade us to forget the real scientific progress made by German scientists in the development of new military armaments and devices.

    The point is not that the scientific dexterity behind designing the Apollo missions should be somehow marginalized or underemphasized, its that the coercive nature of the financing of such ventures blemishes them. When the government sends men to the moon like that, the first thing I think of is the mal-effects caused by the redistribution of wealth, not the intellectual rigor behind the success of such missions.

  5. An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

    Karim - Creating Power