We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata spacefaring quote of the day

“The next four days were a period torn out of the world’s usual context, like a breathing spell with a sweep of clean air piercing mankind’s lethargic suffocation. For thirty years or longer, the newspapers had featured nothing but disasters, catastrophes, betrayals, the shrinking stature of men, the sordid mess of a collapsing civilisation; their voice had become a long, sustained whine, the megaphone of failure, like the sound of an oriental bazaar where leprous beggars, of spirit or matter, compete for attention by displaying their sores. Now, for once, the newspapers were announcing a human achievement, were reporting on a human triumph, were reminding us that man still exists and functions as a man.”

- Ayn Rand, from her essay, “Apollo 11″, taken from The Voice of Reason, page 167.

Neil Armstrong, gone, but never to be forgotten.

Here is a nice documentary about Armstrong which nicely captured his love of flying and science.

31 comments to Samizdata spacefaring quote of the day

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    The Army, the Police and the Apollo programme – they’re pretty much the only things I think a government has ever made a decent job of.

    Just because I object to governments doesn’t blind me to the majesty of the moon shot.

    I’ve often thought if NASA were run as a corporation or a charity, I would gladly buy shares or “space bonds” to support it. Hopefully Space X will live up to their early promise.

    I know Obama neutering NASA has opened the door for private space flight, and I agree this is a good thing. But he’s done it for all the wrong reasons. He cancelled flying to the heavens because he’d rather spend money bribing a client state.

    If I had to chose between a government spending tax on space flight, and a government spending money bribing heroin users to sit on their arses – I choose space.

    At list the vision of people ascending to the heavens has the capacity to inspire and gives kids something to aspire toward.

  • I know Obama neutering NASA has opened the door for private space flight, and I agree this is a good thing. But he’s done it for all the wrong reasons. He cancelled flying to the heavens because he’d rather spend money bribing a client state.

    Epic quote.

  • MakajazMonkee

    “At list the vision of people ascending to the heavens has the capacity to inspire and gives kids something to aspire toward”

    actually heroin users to “siting on their arses” were an inspiration for me as a kid! Many a great record was made by dolies on substances. Actually by a drugged up twist of fate I ended up working in aerospace.

    That’s the problem with government, what one guy thinks is worth the money I might not and vice versa

  • Mike James

    You can’t just stop there, MakajazMonkee–what twist of fate are you talking about? You can’t just tease us with a recipe for success and then not tell us what it is. I am even now trying to picture in my mind a space program made up of junkies and welfare recipients. Give ‘em the budget Apollo had, and stand back and see what happens.

  • Dale Amon

    Actually you are wrong. Obama did not do it for the wrong reasons. He did not particularly have his own reasons. He did it because people told him that was the way to do it, and the people who told him that are out of the same space policy circles as myself and are doing it for the absolutely right reasons.

  • Dale Amon

    You can find out more here; http://blog.nss.org/?p=3762

  • Paul Marks

    Rest in peace Man of the Moon.

  • Darrell

    If ever a man deserved having the nation’s flags flown at half staff, it is Neil Armstrong.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Armstrong gets to go to Heaven twice, but this time with his own wings!

  • Ayn Rand promoting a massive government programme that no private investor would have put good money into…

    the wonders never cease!

  • Alisa

    No wonder at all, Robert: the quote shows Rand’s support for the idea of space exploration itself, without supporting it being turned into a governmental project.

    That said, even though I very much share the general sentiment expressed here about space exploration being the least worst use of taxpayers’ money, many others may disagree. Some may feel that healthcare is more important, others may favor education – and so on. So personally, even though I share that sentiment subjectively, I’d rather keep it to myself and away from objective (i.e. political) considerations.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    On the the subject of consensual space programmes, I was delighted to hear SpaceX will be floating publicly at some point next year.

    I don’t have a lot of savings but I was seriously considering buying a few hundred shares in SpaceX, partly as an investment (they’ve consistently performed well to date) but also because I genuinely believe in what they are doing. Seeing them spending my money gives me pleasure.

    Why can’t government programmes be run in a similar way?

    The only answer I can think of is that governments want to spend money on things they suspect you’d never agree to if you had the choice.

    Looking at where people give their money when they have the option, a voluntary society would probably have shed loads of charity directed toward sick children and struggling single mums – some directed toward the honest unemployed – and hardly any directed toward shiftless junkies.

    Seems much fairer to me ;)

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Oh and by the way, you you haven’t watched In the Shadow of the Moon, you absolutely have to.

    It is one of my all time favourite movies.

  • Richard Thomas

    Jaded, it’s kind-of the other way around. Things that people would spend their money on, they already are*. That only leaves things they wouldn’t for government.

    *Or as much as they have left.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    But Richard, whenever people try to defend a massive government to me they claim it provides me with things I both want and need, and that I’d have to go out and buy if there weren’t a government providing it.

  • *No wonder at all, Robert: the quote shows Rand’s support for the idea of space exploration itself, without supporting it being turned into a governmental project*

    Alisa, I’d say this is close to sophistry.

    `Support for space exploration’ means `support for a massive government programme’, simply because no private investor would have financed such a endeavour.

    Sure with SpaceX or ProjectX or whatever, there is private finance for space exploration finally going ahead… the future knows only how that will turn out, but even so, without the massive govt spending previously, private financing of space exploration would have gotten nowhere.

    As for Rand, I’ve read `Apollo and Dionysus’, her essay comparing unfavourably the Apollo 11 landing with the Woodstock festival (each taking place a few weeks apart in 1969).

    As I read, I couldn’t but help to observe the irony (as I’ve said on this blog before) of an Objectivist praising a massive government programme (ie. Apollo), whilst denouncing the operation of the free market – that is, the privately financed Woodstock festival.

  • Darrell, the whole world’s flags should fly at half mast. Armstrong represents the divide in history – before men walked on other worlds and after. Not just first on the Moon but first and forever first to walk on another world.

  • Alisa

    I didn’t know about the Apollo-Woodstock comparison, Robert – thanks. Rand had yet another blind spot – who’d have thought?:-) Still, it is entirely possible to celebrate a genuine human achievement while ignoring the fact that it was not made possible based on purely libertarian principles. And it’s not like it would have never happened as a private project – it would simply have happened a bit later.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Sorry, mike, i think that Yuri Gagarin’s death day should have had the whole world sadder- remember him? the first man into space?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “Ayn Rand promoting a massive government programme that no private investor would have put good money into…”

    In the essay I quote from, Rand did remark on this incongruous point; she defended the space programme in this sort of way: if we are going to have governments, then let them spend money on stuff like this, not aid to Third World dictators, or in destructive welfare, etc. She was not arguing for tax-funded spaceflight as a matter of principle. She was making the broader point, philosophically, about what the sort of adventurism that the Apollo mission embodied.

    Jaded, I watched “In the shadow of the Moon, and I can concur that this is a superb piece of work. Seen it several times.

  • Nuke, I was sad to hear of Yuri’s death. However every April 12 Yuri’s life is celebrated. Google “Yuri’s Night”.

  • Sigivald

    Robert Burns Glennie said: Sure with SpaceX or ProjectX or whatever, there is private finance for space exploration finally going ahead… the future knows only how that will turn out, but even so, without the massive govt spending previously, private financing of space exploration would have gotten nowhere.

    Really?

    Why?

    I mean, it certainly would have taken longer, no doubt. But the idea that it Simply Could Never Have Happened without the US Government paying big money for a giant fuck-you against the Soviet Union doesn’t seem to follow.

    I assume you grant that even without Apollo there would have been commercial demand for space access, right? (Or even government non-exploratory non-posturing demand, eg. for spy and GPS satellite launches, which is “commercial demand’ if they’re contracting out lift.)

    Thus even without the Space Race there’d still have been money to be made going for Space Access; the drive pre-dated government funding (see Goddard).

    Yes, throwing billions of dollars at it for PR and practical reasons made it happen… faster.

    (“It happens that X happened, and Y built on that” does not demonstrate or even really imply “Y never could have happened, ever, without X”.

    We have the former, not the latter.)

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    I had never heard of that celebration before. i guess russians would be more knowledgeable about this than anyone else- still, we can hope the date receives wider coverage.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    While it may just be that people hate the reds, I think Gagariin’s relative overlooking may be to with discomfort with the way in which he was presented as a “Hero of the Soviet Union” – i.e. Gagarin was a good little collectivist who did as he was told and look what the glorious collectivist machinery did with him.

    Compare this with the distinctly individualistic tone of the American’s “Right Stuff” which states that, yes it was a team effort, but that it would have never worked were it not for a special breed of individual.

    If this is why people are made uncomfortable by Gagarin, then I agree with them.

    To be fair he was widely “celebrated” (i.e. used as a propganda tool) while he was alive. He did not enjoy it and took to drinking heavily. He died 7 short years after his space flight after insisting on taking a jet up for a flight. He died, like many Soviety Military personell, because the red machine was so badly run that people regularly died for purely “administrative” reasons.

    This also makes people uncomfortable. And it should.

  • Alisa

    ‘Gagarin was a good little
    collectivist who did as he
    was told’. Do you know this for a fact, JD?

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    That’s certainly the way he was presented Alisa.

  • Alisa

    But that does not at all mean that this representation was truthful.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    That is true.

    But the suggestion I was making was that people were made uncomfortable by what Gagarin came to represent as a figurehead for propaganda, not that people were troubled by the man himself. We have very little information on the man himself precisely because he was a poster child for a totalitarian state, so it is hard to have strong feelings about him one way or the other.

    All we have is a grainy close up of his face as he orbits the earth, and second hand stories that he was not a happy man. That is not enough to form a judgement. Conversely the American’s were very open about the space programme and engaged in a media blitz. If we don’t know much about Armstrong the man, we know a lot about Armstrong the astronaut. What we have is more than enough to come to the conclusion that Armstrong was a hero worthy of being looked up to.

  • Stephen Houghton

    Rand made clear in her other writings that she did not support a government space program per se, but that if the country was fated to become more and more statest, then the “flag of the United States on Mars or the moons of Jupiter would be a fitting monument to what had once been a great nation.”

  • *I mean, it certainly would have taken longer, no doubt. But the idea that it Simply Could Never Have Happened without the US Government paying big money for a giant fuck-you against the Soviet Union doesn’t seem to follow.*

    I think it does certainly follow. Private investors wouldn’t have invested in space flight because to my mind, there is very little profit to be made in anything to do with space exploration.

    Space tourism? We’ll see. I’m not optimistic that private space flight will ever be profitable – and a look at the within-the-atmosphere flight industry is instructive. Airlines are notoriously unprofitable endeavours. Someone calculated some years ago, that if you added the balance sheets of all the airlines throughout the world, the global has never made a profit.

    Which is astounding, when you think of it.

    *I assume you grant that even without Apollo there would have been commercial demand for space access, right? (Or even government non-exploratory non-posturing demand, eg. for spy and GPS satellite launches, which is “commercial demand’ if they’re contracting out lift.)*

    See above – no I don’t. As for spy satellites being “commercial demand”, no they not. It’s demand, all right, by government, being answered by a commercial concern, yes, but not as a result of regular supply and demand forces.

    (“It happens that X happened, and Y built on that” does not demonstrate or even really imply “Y never could have happened, ever, without X”.

    It’s speculation of course; I think the facts argue that there would have been no space flight without the massive intervention of the U.S. / Soviet governments; and the U.S. government only bothered as a result of a `space-race’ with the USSR.

    Jonathan Pearce wrote:

    *…she defended the space programme in this sort of way: if we are going to have governments, then let them spend money on stuff like this, not aid to Third World dictators, or in destructive welfare, etc. She was not arguing for tax-funded spaceflight as a matter of principle. She was making the broader point, philosophically, about what the sort of adventurism that the Apollo mission embodied….*

    This sounds suspiciously like, `Government spending is good for the stuff that *I* think is worthy; what *you* think is worthy, is bad government spending….’

    Not very principled, I should think.

    In any case, I was struck by the irony of her condemnation of an event, the Woodstock festival, that was entirely privately financed, whilst Ayn Rand celebrated Apollo, which had no private investment whatsoever.

    The Apollo programme may have been `better’ in some moral sense, than the Woodstock festival, but again, the irony of an Objectivist making this claim, cannot be denied.

    (There’s a further point: the Woodstock festival was prevented from sliding into hunger, riot and who knows what else … by government intervention: the declaration by the hated Richard Nixon that the festival site was a `disaster area’, thus unleashing at least tens of millions of dollars in government expenditure to get food, water, medics into the area – as heard in the WS movie, one of the announcers on stage says, about the U.S. military helicopters, `They are here to help us, they are not against us….’)

    I want to add that, whatever my disagreement with others here on this point, this is a wonderful blog and I read it everyday.

    Yours in liberty
    Robert Burns Glennie

  • Dale Amon

    I read Yuri’s biography just a few weeks ago. There is a lot more to the man than any of you know unless you have read ‘Starman’. It was written during that window of time after the USSR came down and before they figured out how to reconstruct the paranoia. Many interviews with his family and co-workers. A wonderful read.

    The jet crash is very likely to have been caused by a near collision of their past-sell-by date Mig (unlike the US counterparts, cosmonauts did not get much opportunity to fly newer aircraft and took what they could get) with a supersonic jet.

    Yuri is remembered in space circles and his life is also remembered. So are those of some of the other Cosmonauts. I have heard they are quite good drinking partners although I have not had the chance to find that out for myself.

    As for the progress of things in the US… things are moving at a staggering pace. I am in the middle of it now and just cannot say much of anything anymore. NDA’s, corporate image control and ITAR you know…