Russian-made. Improbably launched. A joke, really. Not much to see...
...until American woke up to find that something complete preposterous had suddenly become an existential threat, sailing high over our heads, tweeting out a little signal every .3 seconds.
Freaked us out it did.
How the hell had this happened? We were the most powerful country in the world, right? Highest standard of living. Best education. Coolest cars. And yet the Soviet Union -- global adversaries which we mocked as a backwards and failing experiment in totalitarianism by committee -- stuck one right in our ear. Beat us on our own turf, in no uncertain terms and in front of the whole world.
Sure, science fiction writers -- most of them with some kind of science or engineering background -- had imagined their way into space in print hundreds of times. Robert Goddard was doing serious, early work on rockets before World War I, and the boys-with-toys of "The American Interplanetary Society" (later "The American Rocket Society") were conducted their own rocket experiments in New York and New Jersey in the 1930s and 1940s. So while there were plenty of people who took the subject seriously and knew what they were talking about, but they were generally regarded as fringe nerds or eccentric academics.
(The late Ray Bradbury used to tell the story of being braced at a New York literary party by members of the smart set who would ask him derisively if he was the Ray Bradbury who "writes about spaceships and trips to Mars".Bradbury asked them if he could have their names and phone numbers."Why do you want to know?""Because the night man lands on the Moon I'm going to call you."He collected the numbers. Several years later man landed on the Moon. Ray got out his list and started calling."My name is Ray Bradbury. You are a stupid son-of-a-bitch!"Then he hung up and called the next name on the list.)
This, however, is where the analogy breaks down, because after a lot of false starts, in response to this new and immediate threat, the United States actually got up off its ass and got in the game in a serious way.
And it wasn't just that mountains of new money were earmarked to win the "space race" -- it's that even more mountains of new money were earmarked to build the infrastructure of an ongoing space program. Money to put engineering and science programs into hundreds of high schools and colleges. For public relations to build public support. For advanced research and long range projects.
Now we find ourselves suddenly staring down the barrel of an existential threat from within our own borders. Improbably launched. A joke, really. A freak-show of America's basest instincts and worst personality disorders that has suddenly become an existential threat hanging our heads, Tweeting out bullshit all day, every day.
How the hell had this happened?
The party that believes in science and facts. In civil rights, tolerance and equality. In education and a living wage. The party that pulled the country back from the brink of economic disaster. Saved the auto industry. Insured 20 million new people. You know the list. And yet the worst people in America running the loudest, lyin'est, most bigoted nutcase imaginable stuck one right in our ear.
Beat us on our own turf, in no uncertain terms and in front of the whole world.
And here's the thing. We don't lack for speakers and bloggers and podcasters who have been warning for decades about exactly this threat -- the dangerous lunacy that the Right was turning loose upon the land. There are plenty of us who took the threat seriously. Who actually knew what the fuck we were talking about. But the more the evidence mounted that we had been right about the Right all along, the more we were treated as pariahs: as fringe kooks and "terrorist-loving, America hating Libtards".
We on the Left don't lack thinkers and writers and activists, old and young, with big hearts and great ideas. What we sorely lack are the kind of long-term, patient, institutional investments that transformed the American space program from this...
And until the big money on the Left gets off the mat and starts making serious, long-term, institutional investments, the worst people in America will continue to own the future.