I finished part one of this piece noting the first American into space did so on my sixth birthday. But what is really important about part one is what kind of mindset was allowed to develop across the country. It happened at all levels of society. It crossed all boundaries; race, religion, age, sex, social status, military, and civilian. All Americans, to some degree or another, shared in the dreams. And yes, there was more than one dream at play here.
The first, and perhaps the easiest to address, was the goal of beating our adversary at that time – the Russians. We were all aware they had the bomb. We were constantly reminded of “the iron curtain” and the misery which resided on the other side. But the conventional wisdom of the day had most folks comfortable in the belief we were ahead in our scientific advances and technology in general. Sputnik, and Yuri Gagarin put that, if not to rest, at least seriously in doubt. They had beaten us in the first leg of what would come to be known as the space race. We, as American’s, and “the guardian of the free world”, could not let this stand.
The second could dove-tail on the above to some degree. We still had faith in not only our scientists, but in our industrial ability (both manufacturing and engineering) to meet any challenge, any goal we put our minds to. And come out on top. For not only were we dreamers, we believed we had the ability to make those dreams come true. We held to the American Dream; anything was possible with enough elbow grease, dollars, and perseverance. This American ideal, above all else, would allow for us to beat the Russians (and anyone else). This would get us into space, the planets, and ultimately – to the stars.
The third leg of this American triad, is not unique to Americans. In our own fashion (see the second above) we obliquely address it, but it is part of our overall human makeup. This would be the questing nature (tied in to some degree our adventurous nature). That which demands we see what lies over the next hill, in the valley beyond that, across the sea at the valleys end. We humans, or at least a large chunk of us, have this gene in our nature. I know I do. As far as I can tell it came from my mother’s side of the family (Thanks Great Uncle Bill, where ever you are!). It was one of the main reasons I joined the Navy many years ago. It was the reason Louis L’Amour went “yandering”, why we constantly expanded as a young nation, instead of remaining content to stay within the boundaries of our 13 original colonies.
Space is the next logical step in the migration of man. It has to be, for there is nowhere else on earth left to go. As Bill Whittle discusses in his latest Afterburner, NASA may have long since reached it’s zenith as the defacto player in leading America’s advance into “the final frontier”, but that doesn’t mean we have to surrender the dream. Private Enterprise, coupled with the American spirit, that same spirit which got us not only from sea to shining sea, saw us go from the horse and buggy to a nation in love with their automobiles, and as Bill notes, an aviation industry started in bicycle shops and garages, to the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. That same spirit, the three parts listed above, combined with free enterprise, can – no, make that will carry us to the planets, asteroids, and ultimately to the stars.
There can be no other way. For if we fail to follow our hearts, our instinct, our Americanism; if we fail to acknowledge and nurture our human nature letting it continue to blend into the American spirit, we will surely die. The culture and society will stagnate. We will cease to exist as Americans (if there is even an “America” left in existence). And ultimately the whole of western civilization (along with a host of others) will perish from the face of the earth, as mankind heads into a new “dark age”.
Perhaps there will come a time, some untold millenia from now, when the same set of circumstances will allow for the human spirit to soar. Soar not only above the clouds, but to well and truly break the surly bonds of earth, once more to head for the stars. But we have the talent, the potential, and the need, to continue this trek. To ignore it is to do so at our peril.
So where do we go from here? Do we continue to advance the knowledge of man, and in so doing allow for our continued migration? Or do we give up. Give in to those who say we are better served by ignoring not only our humanity, refusing that which is unique about ourselves, about being American. Killing off not only the American Dream, but the spirit of America as well.
The six year old inside me already has his answer, what say the rest of you?