An Imbricated Lament.
Monday, January 27, 2003
Stomp Iraq before the Equinox.
A Better Adventure
To the Planet Mars.
Cavort in front of the Stars.
SPECIAL to corndancer.com
from Bald Mountain near Rachel, Nevada
We want to shoot you a line, but we keep drawing blanks. We want to be profound, but we languish in the commonplace. Everywhere we see targets, but they have holes in them, one and all — and it's all been done before, madam, it's all been done before.
Can you relate to episodic self-loathing and primal ennui? Can you make my Internet work?
No, of course you can't. Even if you could, you wouldn't. You'd rather speak the positive cant of the booster. You are cursing us for our failures. Arrogant and ugly in victory, you stand over your fallen foe to announce your extreme superiority. You are the edacious taunter of the Latter Rain. You are the unrepentant bully.
Shall we go to Mars, or go to war? the wily old social commentator asks the USA. He speaks to the collective mind with a presumed universal voice. A jolly regional cynic hears him, replies: Why not both!
The U.S. military can stomp Iraq before the next equinox. Then the visionaries, engineers, explorers — the Entrepreneurs of Quest and their vanguards, the Captains of Stellar Pioneers — can lift-up the guilty victors from their mourning beds by launching a better adventure to the Planet Mars.
Let us go, then, to the starfield, high above the smoking ruins of the desert. There in the heavenlies as a visionary people we can cavort in front of the constellations, and restore our false hopes.
Shall we dream together again about noble accomplishments? With our dreaming we can erect a tall facade to conceal the vista of blood and carnage on the battlefields of Mesopotamia.
The call to action arrived at our desert hideaway late last Friday via radio waves. Just as well, too: We were wondering what we might next ponder. Someone suggested, "Turn on the radio."
Articulate and passionate as any gadfly on the planet, Richard Hoagland was urging the faithful to communicate with President Bush in hopes of persuading the ascendant leader of the free world to include Project Prometheus in his State of the Union Address, scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday night, a scant forty-eight hours after the end of the Super Bowl of USA professional football, won by the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, 48 to 21, over the Oakland Raiders.
Two Months to Mars.
Project Prometheus, according to a story in the January 17 issue of the Los Angeles Times, is NASA's planned effort "to design a nuclear-powered propulsion system to triple the speed of space travel, theoretically making it possible for humans to reach Mars in a two-month voyage." Although Project Prometheus is strictly about a rocket power, Mr. Hoagland made the leap of faith and aligned it with the journey to Mars.
"NOW HEAR THIS. Project Prometheus!" Mr. Hoagland harkened on his website, The Enterprise Mission. "President Bush Needs to Hear from You Concerning his Historic Decision to Build a NASA Nuclear Rocket to Send Humans to Mars Within Ten Years. It is URGENT You Send Him Your Vote This Weekend — BEFORE the State of the Union Address, Tuesday Night, January 28th. The White House is Expecting Your e-mail! " Beneath the plea was a hyperlink, "Click here for details." The link carried us to George Noory's website, Coast to Coast AM, and a special page dedicated to the lobbying effort.
"Richard Hoagland is spearheading a campaign to email the White House re: support of NASA Mars Missions," the Coast-to-Coast page stated. "Click here to email President Bush (email@example.com). Make sure "Project Prometheus" is in the Subject Header. Please cc your message to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can have a head count of how many messages are sent. You can also fax the White House at this phone number: (202) 456-2461. Count as of 1/27/03, Noon PST: 2,618 emails sent to White House."
Mr. Hogaland on Friday night told Mr. Noory that the fate of Project Prometheus hangs in the balance — and that Coast-to-Coast AM's listeners can tip the scales in favor of a mission to Mars. If enough of us speak out, Mr. Hoagland said, we will persuade the President to act.
JFK and Man on the Moon.
Some of the older heads in our circle of big brains and long thinkers were reminded of USA President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's decision to send men to the moon. He announced the decision on May 25, 1961, during a season of white-hot heat in the Cold War between USA and USSR. "I believe we should go to the moon," President Kennedy said. Despite the imaginative grandeur of the project and the immense potential for discovery it encompassed, the manned lunar missions of Project Apollo were impelled at their onset by the baser element of political expediency.
"The Constitution imposes upon me the obligation to 'from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union.' While this has traditionally been interpreted as an annual affair, this tradition has been broken in extraordinary times," the President said. "These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge."
USA's extraordinary challenge was to "win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny." Sending Americans to walk upon the moon became an enduring symbol of that challenge.
For the Minds of Men Everywhere.
Going to the moon was the key element of "Point IX: Space" in President Kennedy's nine-point action plan, designed to enable USA to win the battle for "the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take." Road One was democracy, freedom, and liberty. Road Two was communism, oppression, and totalitarianism.
Just a month before the President's address, USA had suffered total defeat at the ignoble invasion of Cuba known by history as Bay of Pigs. The Soviets had already won the space race to place a human into orbit (Yuri Gagarin on April 12). By most accounts their rockets were superior to those of USA, which not only equated to advantages in space exploration, but also to the upper hand in intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.
"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," President Kennedy told Congress. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.
"We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar spacecraft," the President continued. "We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until we are certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations — explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon — if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."
Done. Neil Alden Armstrong, American, stepped onto the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 — the first human in known history to do so.
To Mars, or to Home?
Shall we, say, ten years from now, celebrate the arrival of humans from Planet Earth on the surface of Mars? If Mr. Hoagland is correct, the space farers who arrive there will be returning to an ancestral home, but that's entirely another story.
If President Bush proposes a program to send astronauts to the Red Planet, will we owe its germination to political expediency? Can a mission to Mars counter-balance the planetary negativity that surely shall arise in the smoky ruins of a USA-led war in Iraq? Will it give flight to hope in the minds of men?
We catch our error, and name it: the act of dealing in speculative ephemera. Of course the USA is going to war against the evil Saddam of Baghdad. Of course humankind is returning to Mars. How the two might relate is tomorrow's concern.
P O S T S C R I P T
Mr. Bush did not mention Mars in his State of the Union Address. He did not mention space. He did not mention exploration. He talked very much about war.
From the Coast to Coast AM website:
Prometheus Final Total
Richard Hoagland (enterprisemission.com) urged Coast listeners to be heard re: Project Prometheus, before Pres. Bush's State of the Union address tonight. Final Total: 8,014 emails sent (as of 1/28 5:30pm PST)
| David Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles |
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