"Godspeed John Glenn". With those words, said fifty years ago Monday, the United States entered the space race for real as Glenn became the first American in orbit. For further reading on the first seven American astronauts (The Mercury Seven), you can do no better than Thomas Wolfe's "The Right Stuff."
We've been thinking a lot lately about "American Exceptionalism" and the fact that there is no such thing. If you think there is, try flying in a plane built by people who brag about American Execptionalism instead of by qualified engineers. Americans have done exceptional things. Indeed we have saved the world from tyranny. Multiple times. But you can't spend money already spent. Each challenge must be met by that generation and merely prattling about how good you were last week or last century gets you nothing. We personally like nothing more than kicking the butt of the lawyer who tells us they've never lost a case, because their record means nothing in the current case.
As we think about John Glenn's remarkable achievement, we wonder where all the criticism is? Glenn was launched into space by NASA- a taxpayer funded agency. We don't see anything in the Constitution about space or NASA. NASA created the rockets that launched the space capsules through partnerships with hundreds of small companies and several large contractors. And it wasn't the idea of American Execptionalism that created the rockets and capsules. It was exceptional Americans that got us into space and to the moon and safely back, except for the brave men of Apollo One.
An individual company on their own or even in concert with others could not have afforded the billions of dollars it cost to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade and bring him safely home. And what profit was there in creating the lunar lander or the Friendship Seven or the Gemini and Apollo series of space crafts? Without a partnership between the Government and private industry we all would have been going to sleep-in the words of Lyndon Johnson- by the light of a communist moon.
Yet in the current environment such promotion of governmental partnerships gets you called a "socialist" or worse by the Republicans. Yet strangely we don't hear anyone criticizing Eisenhower or Kennedy or Johnson or Nixon (that's two Republicans and two Democrats for those of you counting at home) for creating NASA and spending billions of tax payer money landing men on the moon. Why the silence? It's deafening- and there's nothing exceptional about that.
Coming soon: "Pando and the Faber Effect. "