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See the news The Apollo 11 moon landing was a distraction from America's problems | Science from Source New York Times on 19/07/2019 has been updated to day with the theme on feedixo.

The Apollo 11 moon landing was a distraction from America's problems | Science

On a bright winter morning in 2014, I pressed my head against the glass of my bedroom window and asked a man who had walked on the moon to tell me about the colors there. The black sky as seen from that planet, Alan Bean said, on the phone from Texas, was “glossy” like “patent leather”. It’s a recording I’ve listened to many times since, trying to understand the particular solitude of the midcentury astronaut, a person who could explore another world while his own spun in flames. Read more As a girl raised in the fallout of liberal northern California’s anti-war revolution, men like him had always been objects of disdain to me – products of the military-industrial complex, upholders of white patriarchy – though somehow their achievements, the spacesuits and rockets, had escaped my scorn. But as research for my novel about the Apollo program deepened, a strange inversion was taking place: I was coming to revere the men who defined it, whose conservative politics I despised, but coming to question what they’d done, the celestial explorations I’d always assumed existed outside of politics.As though you could understand the unhappiness of a marriage by the details of an affair that went on outside of it, my understanding of the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s had always come directly from the left-most, long-haired side of it, the stories and biases of my parents, people who had lived excessively and died young, their memories of that time never more than a happy tap of the ashtray away. They met as reporters at the Oakland Tribune in 1987, he a member of the Silent Generation conditioned to petrify his ideas in private, she a Boomer who lived like a slogan, bold and loud. She danced to the Dead, making strange shapes in the air, and he read about the nature of time, making trippy notes in the margins.FacebookTwitterPinterest Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon. Photograph: NASA Where her rebellion was public and bodily, his was existential and sub rosa, and the compound result, in their parenting, was that I was never asked to brush my hair, but always required to have an opinion. As a child, I felt an outsider’s near erotic longing at the idea of things like made beds and time-outs. The year I was seven, I sobbed at the incorrect clock on my mother’s kitchen wall – red and white and never changed for daylight savings – already beginning to believe that only the small organizations of life might protect us against the meaner waves of it. Twenty-odd years later, reading about the psychological testing Neil Armstrong endured in the brutalist Nasa complex in Houston, I felt a deep serenity. After passing into a pitch-dark room with the orders to come out in two hours, he sang to himself, a nursery rhyme on repeat – “there were 10 in the bed and the little one said: roll over, roll over” – and emerged only seconds off.In the image of that man in the quiet of that black, he is only a body, his mind secondary to his circumstancesIn the image of that man in the quiet of that black, he is only a body, his mind secondary to his circumstances, and there was a peace in that I could not ignore, a dissolution of ego I had not expected to find on the political side of polished shoes and war mongering. Somehow, that story was an antidote to the pain I felt as the child of individualists, always loved but often forgotten, deciding to walk when the car was late or didn’t show, left alone in my afternoon and my thinking. My father would have called that time Armstrong spent in a room depersonalization, a favorite invective, an insult leveled by his hero Norman Mailer at the Apollo astronauts (“they were depersonalized to the extent they were true Christians,” he wrote in Life in 1967), but to me it seemed a great feat to forget yourself, an enlightenment purer than that possible on the LSD and psilocybin my parents espoused.Taking syringeful after syringeful of ice cold water in his ear, sitting in a room of 120F, doing all of it without so much as a raise in his heart rate: Armstrong had stepped into the void without help, had approached and chosen it. But if my childhood loved this part of the research – about the mental purity of the other side, the focus possible when the individual was done away with – my adulthood kept pulling on another thread.FacebookTwitterPinterest Spectators watch the launch of the Apollo 11 space mission at Cape Kennedy (later Cape Canaveral) in Florida. Photograph: Ralph Crane/The Life Picture Collection via Getty Images interactiveThe deeper I looked, a sinister shadow followed the light of the program’s marvels: courting the descriptions of something called “earthshine”, the strange charred smells of lunar dust, the Astrud Gilberto cassette tapes and family photos brought to the moon, were machinations of war and cries of injustice. There was the fact that in 1962, the year he gave his famous address at Rice University and secured a blank check from Congress to land a man on the moon, Kennedy had already approved 3,205 American “advisers” to the government of South Vietnam, as well as the use of the dioxin Agent Orange. There was the fact that the brilliant rocket engineers whom that blank check paid were Nazis, Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, the project that showcased their talents the V-2 rocket that killed 30,000 – built by forced Jewish laborers from the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora.No matter how I loved the image of the Apollo 11 launch – a million exultant people transforming the beaches, binoculars held aloft from yachts where they drank Chardonnay or trucks where they tailgated with Budweiser – there was the fact that the evening before, the civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy led a group of 500 activists behind mule-drawn carts to meet with Nasa deputy administrator Thomas Paine. One fifth of the country was living without proper healthcare, food, and shelter, Abernathy pointed out, an inordinate portion of them black. “I am here,” he said, “to demonstrate with poor people in a symbolic way against the tragic and inexcusable gulf that exists between America’s technological abilities and our social injustices.” The year before, he had held Martin Luther King Jr as he bled to death, and he must have wondered where that image fit in the minds of the audience.“Billions for space, the signs said. Pennies for the hungry.”FacebookTwitterPinterest ‘Poor people’ protest at the Apollo 11 launch. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis via Getty Images A note I’d made, about a GI who confronted Neil Armstrong during a GSO tour – why, he wanted to know, was his country “so interested in the moon instead of the conflict in Vietnam” – grew different legs, walking across the page to affix itself to something Alan Bean had said: asked about how the earth looked from the moon, he had two words: “Disappointingly small.”No more bread and circuses, went an anti-Apollo protest chant, referencing the Roman poet Juvenal, his polemic against the grain subsidy autocrats afforded the lower classes in an attempt to subdue them. Even if I set aside the issue of money – $24bn spent on the program, in 1973 currency, or roughly $150bn today – there was the purer question of American attention, how we guided it.In an era of limited airtime, was the color and sound spent on astronauts and their wives and children something like a crime? Was it agitprop, a Western for the cold war audience that made no mention of certain earthly atrocities – of the black military companies who suffered gangrene for lack...

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