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This Week in History:
Man on the Moon — July 22-28, 1969

July 2010

This week we go back a mere 41 years, to the anniversary and immediate aftermath of one of the most exciting achievements of the United States on behalf of all mankind, the first human landing on the Moon. Given the cultural devolution which has occurred since then, it seems we might be talking of a much more distant era, even light years away. But, as the phase shift away from the national mission for scientific and technology progress proves itself to be a murderous failure, our recollection of the Apollo 11 mission might serve to turn us back on that successful track.

The Moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969. A team of three astronauts—Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins—carried out the flight, as millions of people, in America and around the world, watched or listened to the earth-shaking event. It was Armstrong who was the first human to set foot on the Moon, and who memorialized his action with a statement that should echo proudly in our nation's history: "That's one small step for man ... one giant leap for mankind."

The context for the American Moon landing is usually presented as the United States' response to the Soviet space program, a "space-arms race," if you will. In fact, it was much broader than that. For decades before President Kennedy's May 25, 1961 announcement that America would commit itself to putting a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s, a group of scientists, many of them from the Leibnizian tradition in Germany, had nourished the dream, and worked on the science, that would permit human space flight. Their outlook intersected that of a grouping of policy makers around the incoming President Kennedy, who understood the necessity for what Lyndon LaRouche would later call a science driver for an otherwise languishing U.S. economy.

The U.S. economy was, in many ways, "up against it" when President Kennedy came into office. It was a matter of national concern that the U.S. cities were in a shocking state of decay, that vital sections of national infrastructure, including water and energy, were in desperate need of revitalization, and senior citizens enmired in poverty. President Kennedy's first initiatives on the economy involved the enactment of the Investment Tax Credit (to preferentially tax those who spent more on new plant and equipment), and the setting of goals to resolve pressing problems in the areas of natural resources, education, and health care.

But it was the President's decision to adopt the national mission to "put a man on the Moon, and return him safely to the Earth," which ultimately provided the biggest boost to the U.S. economy, and potentially for the world as well. The President sought to inspire the nation to undertake this great project: "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 space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until it is 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."

What was involved was a conscious mobilization of the best scientific potential of the nation. As the President put it, accomplishing the goal would demand "a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material, and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization, and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts."

The mobilization for the Moon landing did not just involve the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), its contract companies, the national laboratories and universities, and other specialists, however. This effort generated a wave of national excitement about studying science, and mastering the universe, which was unprecedented. When the landing was actually accomplished, the explosion of enthusiasm was enormous, and could have provided the basis for a broad technological revolution, required for defeating disease, poverty, and ignorance all around the world.

Instead, while the space program did inject into the U.S. economy the only substantive scientific-technological innovations since the World War II mobilization, the promise of this spurt was not realized. Within one year of the Moon landing, the mass movement around Earth Day—an anti-scientific, pagan celebration of Mother Earth—had become the national rage in the United States, and the monetary/economic decisions associated with enforcing a post-industrial, consumerist society had begun to take hold. The wave of optimism which the space walk generated, was almost immediately swallowed up. With Nixon at the helm, we were enmired in protests over the Vietnam War, attacks on labor, and budget cutbacks.

It's been 41 years since we had a President who called us to a mission worthy of our nation, one that would stretch our abilities to serve all mankind. As Americans look for a solution to what seems an impossible, and inevitable disaster today, the most appropriate model is that of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President John F. Kennedy's bold decision of 1961 should receive honorable mention as well.


This article was originally published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

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