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July 18, 2003

Fly me to the Moon

Everyone remembers the name of Apollo XI commander Neil Armstrong. Many remember Buzz Aldrin's name if only for its super-cool nickname aspect. But how many people know the name of the fellow who drove the orbiter while Armstrong became one of the greatest figures in history and Aldrin became history's other guy?

Michael Collins reminisces:

Look at Neil, doesn't he look gormless? Neil 'Moonface' Armstrong, that's what we used to call him. Can you believe that they let him be in charge? He was so pleased with himself, the power went straight to his stupid round head, in training he was always making us do jobs for him "Michael, can you make me some iced tea?", "Buzz, will you clean my spaceman boots?" If we said no, it would always be the same "Do you want to go to space or not? .. Do you?" What could we do?

Back in the old country we had lots of words for people like Armstrong, "Smug arsehole", "Bogbrain", "Person most likely to lose their kneecaps."
He was childish too. All the way to moon, it was "Buzz, are YOU looking forward to walking on the moon?", and "Michael, YOU can tidy the Colombia Orbiter while WE are on the moon." I tell you, if Buzz hadn't gone down there too, I'd have turned that tincan straight back round and left Moonface down there on his beloved moon. See how long the f***ing moonfaced half-wit would have been taking giant f***ing leaps with no f***ing OXYGEN. The c***.

On the other hand, I have nothing but respect for Buzz. Buzz Aldrin is a handsome man. A man's man.

Rivalries such as this pale in comparison to the prospect of an end to America's manned space program (via Fred Kiesche). Manned spaceflight... the Flea asks readers for a gender-neutral way of expressing the same idea... is one of the few points of disagreement I have with the editorial line of The Economist. A rational calculation of costs and returns in the form of exploration and scientific advancement may weigh against sending people into space. But rational calculations are often grounded on the false premise there is any reason to go into space except as an end in itself.

NPR, noted bastion of flavour-free common sense, questioned the wisdom of manned spaceflight in the wake of the Columbia disaster. Some could not understand the point of the adventure. James Lileks explained:

The rest of the day I listened to the radio. NPR had an interview with one of those people who think we should not send people into space, but rely entirely on robots. As I pulled into the parking lot at the mall he casually asked “what can a man do on Mars that a robot cannot?”

PLANT A F***ING FLAG ON THE PLANET, I shouted at the radio. Pardon my language. But.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 18, 2003 12:32 PM