Space and health, seemingly disconnected, join to provide important lessons about the nation.
(In violation of a longtime columnar stricture against the first-person singular - in this age of the rat-trap of me, a stricture violated in columns and blogs and on television every day before breakfast - today's column includes some personal references.)
Many in their 50s and older recall vividly where they were when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. My wife and I and our 6-month-old son spent the night at a vacationing neighbor's house that had a color TV and ours didn't. Because of the timing of Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's lunar romp, we stayed up much of the night to witness this millennial adventure as it happened.
America put men on the moon and brought them back because of two powerful forces. With soaring rhetoric, President John Kennedy committed the nation to do it as fulfillment of our manifest destiny. American innovation - combined with perseverance and courage - carried the Apollo moon program to success with the flight of Apollo 11 on July 19/20, 1969. Apollo 17, in 1972, was the final flight. Neither we, nor anyone else, has been back since.
Principally, the six Apollo moon landings were the consequence of innovation. Brain power. Ingenuity. Grit. Tom Wolfe gave the ages the phrase "the right stuff" to describe the character of the astronauts. It matched a determination to make the Apollo program succeed no matter what - to venture beyond the beyond, behind the night (as World War I British poet Rupert Brooke wrote) to "some white tremendous daybreak."
Then public and governmental interest in space flagged, Congress underfunded manned-space initiatives - and today we marvel at the Apollo achievement of 40 years ago rather than at an exponentially advanced manned-space program, leaping like giants, that Apollo began.
These days, the closest equivalent of the Apollo program may be the efforts of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and their ideological soul mates to nationalize health care.
So we hear stipulations about the natural right to health care, every human's entitlement to it, and presumed necessities to lessen its cost, improve its quality, and through private insurance or a "public option" cover every American - legal and il-. And we hear can-you-top this projections and woolly commentaries about compelling needs, rationing commissions, diminished service, employer mandates, and insufferable new taxes.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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