50 years, a couple of centuries ago
years ago this week, John Glenn circled the globe. The Russian’s Yuri Gagarin may have been there first, but our American friend went public, live on TV, with the booming and excited calm voice of Walter Cronkite, describing it all.
Today, Mr. Glenn is 91, with grand-children who will never feel the rush of a generation for whom space was to be conquered, bringing peace and justice to all of mankind.
For justice, well some was dealt with during the same year. In a daring coup, Israel was able to get its hands ultimately around the neck of Adolf Eichmann, that most banal of men, responsible for the extermination of millions of Jews and for putting others into slavery, no other word, building the rockets of the Nazi regime.
The scientists of that project were conveniently sent to the United States where their expertise was put to good use: building the engines that propelled John Glenn into orbit. Those nasty Americans, well, at least they admitted it. The Russians, these being communist times, having invented everything, forgot their own caché of scientists. Mind you, theirs were kept in camps; the ones who ended up in America being more or less free to move about.
Still, did we ponder then the moral issue of these two unrelated events? No.
We didn’t have to. We were the good, and they were the bad and the ugly combined. And, as in the Sergio Leone spaghetti western of the same name, all sides were truly amoral and less than forthcoming with the true reasons of our involvement in the cosmos. Please note cosmos and not space. While the official line on space exploration was all about the desire of mankind to go forward where no one had gone before, the real money was on the exploration of the cosmos, not for the betterment of the human race but rather to get closer to the initial burst of energy of our universe. They wanted to understand how the sun and the stars worked, not for the beauty of it but for building miniature suns, better known as hydrogen bombs or its siblings. The United States’ then most recent discovery, the neutron bomb, was invented in the late fifties and almost brought the world to World War III in the late seventies.
A lot more than the bombing of Hiroshima and Gagarin’s and Glenn’s journies started what is now our world. Glenn’s more so as the American, taking a huge gamble, but forced to show the Right Stuff, that they could risk a disaster publicly and show the world that the USA did have what it takes to rule the world. It worked.
The problem with going into space is that the cost of sending something there is astronomical; shaving every milligram saves tons of money. So the race for smaller components was on, and this one America won squarely. Mostly on the control side, the Russian rockets were still excellent mechanically but lacked the sophisticated electronics of the Americans back then.
So everything that we take for granted today stems from that moment, fifty years ago, when John Glenn circled the globe. Nothing was too expensive for NASA, which went into a funding binge never seen since; if we could circle the earth we could go to the moon. So today, what we could not fathom then, people on the street talking to themselves while those around them don’t even see them as ‘nuts’, started for real fifty years ago this week.
The side effect of the arms race, the true explanation of the space race, has been that a sort of quiet peace has emerged, none of the major powers willing to go to a full-fledged conflict, doing so by proxy instead most of the time. While millions have died, billions have been saved. Not too bad a result if we think about it.
“I support the decision by Vermont to appeal the flawed ruling by Judge Murtha in the Vermont Yankee litigation. I believe the law is clear that states have the right to reject nuclear power based on economic and other reasons that have nothing to do with safety.
“The Vermont Senate in a bipartisan 26-4 vote decided against renewing Vermont Yankee’s license. If Vermont wants to move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, no corporation should have the right to force our state to stay tethered to an aging, problemridden nuclear plant.” Dear Editor,
This past Saturday February 18, 2012 the hard working parents organization (PPO) of Sunnyside Elementary held a Bingo to support their school Library. Though we had a disappointing turn out, those generous souls who came out to support us made all the hard work worthwhile. Mr. Bob Sheldon did a great job as our caller and many laughs were shared as dozens of donated prizes were won. The hundred dollar jackpot was won by Mrs. Robin Bedard of Magog who generously donated back some of her winnings to the Library. Hot bowls of soup and dozens of sandwiches and homemade sweets donated by the parents committee and their families kept everyone’s energy up as the afternoon progressed and at the end of the day we were able to raise $ 646.00 dollars for new books. This would not have been possible with- out the wonderful women of the PPO and our families who are always there to help us set up, take down , cook, clean up or just watch the children at home so that we can give our time to raise money to make our school a better place. Thank you, you are amazing and it’s a pleasure to work with you. On behalf of the parents of the PPO and the students of Sunnyside who will enjoy many new books I thank you again for your support. Sincerely
Mrs. Kelly Belanger President Sunnyside PPO