“Is Obama Gorbachev?”

Tom Wolfe wrote a fabulous op-ed in the Sunday New York Times commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969.  In it, he speculated that the achievment itself spelled the end of the NASA program because it lacked a philosopher corps that might have furnished it with more meaning beyond its element of “single combat” between the US and the Soviets in the “space race.”   This meaning, he said, might have been supplied by someone like NASA’s chief engineer Wernher Von Braun, who once stated (in effect) before a congressional committee that  “…we must build a bridge to the stars, because as far as we know, we are the only sentient creatures in the entire universe. When do we start building that bridge to the stars? We begin as soon as we are able, and this is that time. We must not fail in this obligation we have to keep alive the only meaningful life we know of…. Unfortunately, NASA couldn’t present as its spokesman and great philosopher a former high-ranking member of the Nazi Wehrmacht with a heavy German accent.”
The further trouble, of course, is now that we sentient creatures seem to be in the process of destroying our home planet, how might we justify our spread to other worlds? We’ve fallen short both in resources and philosophy.  In our current state of evolution we seem unlikely to ever again go further afield than the moon and not exactly worthy of making trips elsewhere anyway.  Stay tuned a few hundred thousand years….


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