Posts Tagged 'Tom Wolfe'

Artifacts of the Human Beast

MoonOn the 40th anniversay of Apollo 11, I humbly submit for Fight Club’s consideration, Craig Nelson’s “Rocket Men.” In his review in last week’s Book Review, Thomas Mallon writes:

Walter Cronkite’s prediction, that after Apollo 11 “everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk,” wound up playing out backward. In our pop-historical memory of the 1960s, Project Apollo is the footnote, an oddball offshoot from assassinations, Vietnam and Charles Manson. Since 1972, no human has traveled beyond low-Earth orbit, a situation that makes one imagine what things might be like if, after Lindbergh’s flight, the species had contentedly gone back to making do with boats and trains.

As if to concede, in retrospect, that Apollo 11 wasn’t as important as other events (Sesame Street, The Brady Bunch, Woodstock) in 1969, the New York Times is celebrating not just Apollo 11 but the entire year of 1969 in an interactive timeline with images, video and audio.

The moon launch was just [my emphasis] one event in 1969 — a year of enormous cultural innovation and change. The music, movies and events that seemed to sum up the chaos, creativity, violence and hopefulness of the decade.

But the most poignant summary of the intervening years since Apollo, is from the author of “The Right Stuff,” Tom Wolfe.  On Saturday, he wrote an opinion piece in the Times One Giant Leap to Nowhere” in which he argues that what NASA is missing is a philosopher that can make the case for sending a man to Mars and beyond.  Wolfe asks:

At this point, the mental atmospheres of the rocket-powered space race of the 1960s and the sword-clanking single combat of ancient days became so similar you had to ask: Does the human beast ever really change — or merely his artifacts?


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