Short Take: Space, The Final Complaint

As most of the nation celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most miraculous accomplishments of our age, landing on the moon, there are some who can take no joy. So what if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did what no human beings ever did before and, by doing so, fulfilled JFK’s challenge to a nation to be as great as it could be?

First, the New York Times had to take its shot.

After putting the first man in space in 1961, the Soviets went on to send the first woman, the first Asian man, and the first black man into orbit — all years before the Americans would follow suit.

Sure, they didn’t make it to the moon, but what really matters is cosmonaut diversity.

Cosmonaut diversity was key for the Soviet message to the rest of the globe: Under socialism, a person of even the humblest origins could make it all the way up.

It’s almost as if the Times is seeking out ways, no matter how deep they have to dig, to promote “socialism” and its connection to the only value of worth, diversity. But the Times, as far as some are concerned, is at best a centrist rag and at worst the mouthpiece for conservatives, as is obvious from its gentle opinions about Darth Cheeto.

Serious progressive ideals are reflected in serious progressive media, like The Nation.

Is Spaceflight Colonialism?

Not that Neil and Buzz rounded up all the moon people and put them in concentration camps, but only because they didn’t find any. Even if they had, Armstrong was tricked by a Navajo wise man.* But from start to finish, there is nothing about our, or anyone else’s, foray into space that didn’t come at the expense of the marginalized.

As Americans celebrate the monumental semi-centennial of the Apollo 11 landing, the commemorations should also invite reflection on the troubled history of spaceflight and the laws that govern it. Two years before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 had ensured that no nation could declare sovereignty in space; planting an American flag on the lunar surface, US officials knew, did not amount to a national claim.

Bet you thought the argument was about our jingoistically “seizing” the moon for ourselves? Well, it is, but only to the extent necessary to explain why everything about space travel is literally horrible.

But while this “anti-imperial” element of the Space Treaty has received deserved attention, it by no means represents the history of spaceflight and outer-space law as practiced by countries and corporations in the Global North—a point upon which I elaborate in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. While the recent spate of billionaires cashing in on spaceflight points to the inequalities that shape its development, these inequalities are hardly new.

The history of mankind, this nation, even the moon landing, isn’t turning out well in the reinvented telling by progressives. No doubt the future in their hands will turn out far better.

*Best moon landing story ever:

The elder asked the astronauts if they could deliver a message to the spirits from his people upon landing. Armstrong and Aldrin were willing to oblige, asking what the message was. The tribal elder had them repeat a sentence in his native tongue, over and over, until they had memorized it.

“What does it mean?” the astronauts asked.

“I can’t tell you, it’s a secret only allowed to be understood by my people and the moon spirits,” the old man said.

The astronauts, confounded by the message they were told to deliver, sought someone who spoke Navajo to translate the meaning of the cryptic words.

Upon returning to their base, the astronauts found a translator and repeated the phrase to him. The interpreter took one look at them and began hysterically laughing.

He said, “It means, don’t trust a word these people are telling you. They’re here to steal your land.”

6 thoughts on “Short Take: Space, The Final Complaint

  1. B. McLeod

    “Cosmonaut diversity.” How did the NYT miss the omission of LGBT cosmonauts? And, how are the LGBT folks doing over there in the regions once governed by the former Soviet Union? If the point is that NYT thinks we should be emulating the Russians, they picture it has presented here is materially incomplete.

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