Yesterday, at the end of a four-mile run, I clicked the Strava app to shift the measurement from RIDE to RUN, and waited while my phone processed the information. At that moment it struck me: What right do I have to use a satellite?
My father once stood over his pile of sons lounging in the living room and asked, “Have you ever seen a miracle?” We were watching a Muhammed Ali fight on TV. The images came around the world by satellite. But all we wanted to do is watch The Greatest float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. We didn’t want lectures from our dad about how satellites worked, or why it was a miracle that we could see this fight from halfway around the world.
Witnessing life in (relative) real time is a miracle to which we’ve all grown long accustomed. Yet the phenomenon of satellite communications is not all that old. The 1960s were just 50 years ago.
The Space Race was what drove it all, and competition for communications advantage and the ability to rule over the earth put the world’s powers into hyperdrive. The United States and Soviet Union put some of their best minds to work, and Sputnik at first kicked our ass.
The account of Sputnik (Russian for “satellite”) is a fascinating read from History.com: “Sputnik had a diameter of 22 inches and weighed 184 pounds and circled Earth once every hour and 36 minutes. Traveling at 18,000 miles an hour, its elliptical orbit had an apogee (farthest point from Earth) of 584 miles and a perigee (nearest point) of 143 miles. Visible with binoculars before sunrise or after sunset, Sputnik transmitted radio signals back to Earth strong enough to be picked up by amateur radio operators. Those in the United States with access to such equipment tuned in and listened in awe as the beeping Soviet spacecraft passed over America several times a day. In January 1958, Sputnik’s orbit deteriorated, as expected, and the spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere.”
In case you’ve forgotten or never knew, the Soviets kept on kicking America’s ass for some time after that. “The Soviet space program went on to achieve a series of other space firsts in the late 1950s and early 1960s: first man in space, first woman, first three men, first space walk, first spacecraft to impact the moon, first to orbit the moon, first to impact Venus, and first craft to soft-land on the moon. However, the United States took a giant leap ahead in the space race in the late ’60s with the Apollo lunar-landing program, which successfully landed two Apollo 11 astronauts on the surface of the moon in July 1969.”
Of course, some delusional American nutniks (as many as 20% according to some sources) still believe that man never walked on the moon. They think it was an event staged by NASA to deceive people.
People tweeted upon astronaut Neil Armstrong’s life and death: “So yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong landed onto the moon on a fake set in a movie studio #letsbehonest #conspiracy #hoax— TheRealThomasfy”
RIP Neil Armstrong! You didn’t really land on the moon, but it’s all good. Your story is still apart of our history.— Mr. Ayy Shorrr
It’s fascinating that such people can use the amazing technology driving their ability to tweet and still not believe that human space flight is possible. Human beings have been orbiting the earth for decades now, circling the 22,000 miles around the earth in what, an hour or so? At that speed, it would take just five hours to reach the moon. Nothing to it really.
Instead, people fix their brains on the impossibility of such a simple reality. And by proxy, they distrust the government to tell the truth about these abilities. It’s a disease of the mind, very sad for humankind, and the source of many modern problems, especially political. Because if you can’t make sense of basic activities like that, and can’t comprehend the miracles of human invention happening around us every day, then you live in a fantasy world of mixed up beliefs and values.
And hence my consternation at my own right to a satellite. At least, I have the humility to trust that billions of dollars have gone into my ability to run four miles and have it be tracked and delivered to me via cell phone. I do not think, “Of course, I deserve it.” I think, “Am I really worth it?”
I’m going to vote for the candidate of my choice today. Millions of other people will do the same here in Illinois. And approximately 6-20% of them don’t believe that human beings have ever walked on the moon.
Which raises the question: Are they capable of making good choices given their worldview? Upon what judgments are they making a choice for President of the United States?
The results of these political activities will be sent around the world by satellite and consumed with concern by billions of people around the planet. Because the United States is a world power, and our choice of leaders has great effect on the lives of all those who live on this earth. From military strength to protecting the planet from the devastating effects of climate change (which also has its share of delusional deniers) it is critical we choose people who at least accept the complexity of these problems rather than acting like schoolyard bullies who care about nothing but the right to own guns and use them.
Because we all know that people with stunted ideology hate those who promote liberalities. That how men like John F. Kennedy wound up dead. And Martin Luther King, Jr. And Bobby Kennedy. And John Lennon. Even conservative icon Ronald Reagan got plugged by a bullet. Bullets are nothing more than murderous little satellites. Some people seem to believe in them far more than they believe in floating through space with an eye toward the future. Rather than shoot for the moon, they’d rather protect the right to shoot at their neighbor anytime they wish.
Thinking back to the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, he made a pitch to Congress to fund an accelerated space program. As documented on History.com:
“In a speech before Congress on May 25, JFK linked the need for a space program with the political and economic battle between democracy and communism. He urged Congress to mobilize financial resources to speed up the pace of the space program’s progress, insisting that America should go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
Kennedy’s vision did not become a reality until six years after his assassination. On July 20, 1969, then-President Richard Nixon watched with the world while Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. Just after Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon, President Nixon contacted Armstrong via phone to congratulate him on behalf of all Americans saying I just can’t tell you how proud we are.”
But some people sat in their homes during all that history being made and just could not bring themselves to believe in it. Some of those same people are still walking around today, attending rallies for men wanting to build walls around our borders rather than exploring space and voting for who-knows-what other small-minded priorities they hold dear to their hearts.
We’ve landed probes on Mars. We’ve sent space missions out past Saturn and Jupiter. We can track the very source and age of light in the universe. Yet people think human beings have never walked on the moon. These are stupid people. Yet they still have the right to vote just like any other.Democracy isn’t just a messy process. It lets the shit mix in with the cake batter. But that’s the deal. Take it or leave it. It’s just a painful reality knowing their judgments could determine the fate of the human race.
It’s a stunning fact that the lesson some people derive from satellites, moon landings and space missions… is that the most they can draw from these events is that the government can’t be trusted.
Sometimes it’s their religion that drives them to these beliefs. Christians and Muslims and all sorts of versions of anachronistic faith should be held responsible for preaching stupidity to people from the pulpit and on the streets. Unlike many who insist that it’s not right to question religious beliefs, I believe it is the most important responsibility in the world. And if those beliefs add up to stupidity, then call them out. Especially those rife with hypocrisy.
Because scriptural literalism is what’s holding the human race back from progress. It is a cognitive dissonance that poisons human relations in all faiths.
So I’ll share a reality that these backward dolts will love to hear. Because recently, when the United States and Russia began sharing technology including satellites, American scientists were stunned to learn that the Russian instruments and ability to see the earth from space was far advanced over our own capabilities. That’s right, the Russians were still kicking our ass 50 years later.
So go on ahead believing that man never walked on the moon. That’s a great way to fall even further behind our global competitors on every front that matters. It’s a shame sometimes that the one thing satellites can’t track is sheer stupidity, because America seems to be leading the world in that category these days.
SEEK JUSTICE. COMPETE WELL.