For some, the decade of the sixties will be remembered for anti-war protests, flower children, love beads, and Woodstock, along with all of their accompanying societal debauchery. Among others however, a far more glorious aspect of that tumultuous time will always remain preeminent.
In the midst of the unraveling of the national fabric, an enormous contingent of inspired and dedicated Americans had committed themselves to doing the impossible. And at 4:53 pm on Sunday, July 20 1969, the words of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong crackled back from the surface of the moon across a quarter of a million miles of space to Houston Texas, proclaiming to all the world that "The Eagle has landed," and the impossible had been achieved.
Only a dozen years earlier, the post World War II optimism of America and the rest of the free world had been completely shattered by news of the successful Soviet effort to orbit Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Gliding silently across the night sky with a menacing serenity, it alerted the West of a serious technology deficiency that many feared was a harbinger of eventual Soviet dominance, not only in space, but on earth as well.
Of course the Soviets zealously exploited their accomplishment, shortly following it with the spectacular launch of Sputnik 2, a much larger satellite in which rode "Laika" the dog. Weeks later, an American attempt to orbit its own artificial satellite ended with the humiliating explosion of Vanguard One. With each passing day, the grim possibility of Soviet hegemony in space and on the ground increased.
America scrambled to keep apace, finally getting Explorer 1 into orbit in January of 1958. Nevertheless, early efforts to narrow the technology gap appeared futile. On April 12, 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became history's first man in space, making a single orbit of the earth before safely landing deep inside Russia. It seemed that the Soviet Union was destined to dominate the high frontier.
Yet in retrospect, the United States was only warming up to the challenge. On May 5, less than a month after Gagarin's journey, Alan Shepard completed the successful suborbital flight of Freedom 7. And, in a bold move coming on the heels of that comparatively minor venture, President Kennedy presented his famous challenge to America to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade. The space race was on.
Very quickly, it became apparent that once the America of that era set itself upon such a course, little could stop it. By the middle of the decade, American space technology had far surpassed the Soviets. Worse still for them, a series of major catastrophes rendered a manned Soviet moon mission, clearly their early intent, to be an impossibility. So they changed the rules of the game.
On one front, they made a frenzied effort to return a sample of lunar soil, via an automated probe, to earth prior to the Americans, stridently promoting the notion that an unmanned mission would be technologically superior and less costly. Their desperation became glaringly obvious in 1969 as they frantically made two failed launch attempts of their "Luna" moon probe, one on June 14, and the other on July 13. Either of which, had they been successful, might conceivably have given their propaganda minions sufficient political ammunition to make claims that the mantle of Soviet superiority remained within the Iron Curtain.
On another front, they began a propaganda blitz deriding the exorbitant American expenditures required for manned lunar travel. In this endeavor, and with the help of the increasingly left-leaning American media, they were far more successful. By the time Armstrong planted his boot on the lunar surface, many media minions and cultural icons had taken the bait and essentially became embarrassed over the whole event. America's greatness had been turned into a liability. What should have been a day of shining achievement had degenerated into a heated national debate.
As an omen of the eventual collapse of America's former recognition of its own greatness, the Apollo 11 episode is difficult to surpass. Before long, other great achievements and milestones were regularly being assessed from a completely derisive and negative perspective. It was no longer surprising to hear the most defamatory and biased coverage of any prominent historical figure or event, from the character of George Washington, to the 1992 half-millennium commemoration of the landing of Christopher Columbus, to the 1995 fiftieth anniversary of the Enola Gay mission to drop the atom bomb on Japan and thus end the Second World War.
So jaundiced has the media "prism" since become that now, every noteworthy episode of its rich history is predictably formed and flaked into the public relations advantage for the left. Thus, President Bush's carrier landing aboard the Abraham Lincoln, which once might have been cheered by the press and public alike as a stirring boost to troop morale, was instead perversely recast into a major controversy.
Somehow, arriving on deck in the rear seat of a U.S. Navy fighter jet and declaring "Mission Accomplished" to America's victorious military troops, as well as to their vanquished enemies, constituted a grave impropriety. In contrast, Barack Obama continues to receive gushing media accolades for swatting a fly.
Consequently, in 2009, Barack Obama presents America to the rest of the world not as its great hope of liberation, justice, and prosperity, but as a penitent former antagonist, regretful of supposed wrongs committed against the entirety of humanity. Yet with telling hypocrisy, he studiously ignores the flagrant abuses of human rights regularly perpetrated by those he seeks to impress with his fawning.
With so much of the nation's culture and history being evaluated from this warped perspective, it is small wonder that any celebration of the moon landing, perhaps the greatest technological accomplishment of all human history, will in retrospect be thoroughly eclipsed by something as trifling as the funeral of a notoriously bizarre pop singer. Sadly, few Americans can even name any of the courageous dozen of their countrymen who have walked on another world.
If real America truly wants to reclaim its culture and its heritage from the diseased mouthpieces of the political left and its "useful idiots" of the pop culture, it can start by giving proper credit to its real heroes, starting with the men of Apollo 11 who first journeyed to the moon, along with all those others throughout the country who by their talents, diligence, and commitment to the greatness of America dared to send them there.
Copyright ©2009 Christopher G. Adamo