July 20, 2014
[This is a slightly edited version of a piece I wrote in 2009. Sadly, it is still just as relevant.]
It was 45 years ago yesterday, as I write these words, that Apollo 11 began the long burn on the service module engine that would capture the mission hardware in lunar orbit. Listening to the real-time plus 40 years playback of the communications stream between Houston CapCom and Apollo 11 at wechoosethemoon.org, it's hard not to be transported to a time that was at once simpler and more magnificent.
As a trailing edge member of the post WWII baby boom, I grew up with a fundamental awareness of the cold war competition that played itself out on every conceivable field of human endeavor. The most demanding, daring and daunting of all was the race to space, which was defined by President Kennedy's challenge to the country in 1961 to send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth.
Kennedy's vision was audacious beyond all conception at the time. It was revolutionary. In presenting it, Kennedy reminded us that the nation was 'born of revolution and raised in freedom and we do not intend to leave an open road to despotism." It was time, he said, for a 'great new American enterprise."
Kenned told the American people that "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important in the long range exploration of space."
Going to the moon prior to 1960's was the definition of the impossible.In the 1970's it became the touchstone of achievement: If we can put a man on the moon, so went the refrain, why can't we...followed by the utopian desire of your choice.
Forty years ago tomorrow I was stretched out on the living room floor, face as close to the television as I could get, transfixed by a grainy image of a ghostly Neil Armstrong slowly clumping down a ladder and then announcing he was on the foot of the L.E.M.
A defining moment for humanity had arrived and I had a front-row seat on my living room floor.
One small step later and my world was changed, along with that of everyone I knew.
But, sadly, that is no longer the case, as time has not been as good to the Apollo program as it deserves.
Anyone of my generation who lived through the presidential challenge; the series of explosive mishaps at the onset of the program; the triumph of Shepard and Glenn to put Americans in space and on orbit; the precision of Schirra and Cooper that closed out Project Mercury; the methodical building blocks of space walking, orbital rendezvous and docking that was Project Gemini; the loss of Grissom, Chafee and White to 'Go Fever'; knew in their heart that the Apollo program was real and represented the best that technological America could do.
And that may have been the last time that we, as a nation knew anything with as much certainty.
The first inkling I got of this was at a Space Frontier Foundation conference in Washington DC, where a new generation of space advocates conducted a Born After Apollo forum. The iconic success of Apollo was so embedded in my psyche that it took some listening to realize that there was a whole generation that had been born AFTER the last Apollo astronaut left the last footprint on the moon.
And they were frustrated by the fact that after a stunning national achievement, American spacefaring retreated to the relatively shallow waters of low-earth orbit to build a space station with no deliberate use.
The young New Spacers are determined to transition space exploration from the over budget and under-optimized government-managed, self-sustaining bureaucracy that NASA has become, to something more vibrant, daring and commercially viable. And they are doing it. Space X's Falcon 1 recently became the first privately financed launch vehicle to boost a commercial payload into orbit.
But more disturbing is a conversation I had this morning with a young man -- who I will call Dave -- that ensued from my pointing out that tomorrow represents the 40th anniversary of a giant leap. His response was unstudied and unsympathetic.
'I think the whole thing was a hoax.'
Dave is gifted with an excess of common sense, has a wife and a family started, is an industrious worker and would serve as a good example of late 20something America. He's not a fringe thinker or radical beyond the individualism that typifies Americans.
But he's been on the internet. He's seen the YouTube videos. For Dave, as I'll call him, it's easy enough to imagine that the United States Government, locked in a cold war of prestige and propaganda, would fake the critical portion of the Apollo program in order to achieve a national goal. After all, Dave says, 'everything else the government tells us is lies.'
It is a sad but telling tribute to the loss of credibility of our national leadership that the defense of disbelief in America's greatest aerospace technological achievement is simply that 'since the government lies about so much else, why would they not be lying about landing on the moon if it served their purpose?'
Ironically, there is strong circumstantial evidence that NASA is lying -- by omission -- about the nature of the Apollo Moon missions. But it is certainly not about whether or not they were real.
What they are not telling the public about and why, goes to the heart of a cancerous schizophrenia gnawing away at the social contract between the population and the government.
• • •
When a unidentified flying object manned by advanced beings came down near the Army Air Base at Roswell, New Mexico, a justifiably leery President Truman reacted with predictable and understandable caution. The whole event was explained away, covered-up and then kept secret for as long as possible. Even now it is denied, despite sufficient and constantly accumulating evidence to the contrary.
The knee-jerk reaction of the military industrial complex was to cover-up and deny the existence of advanced beings, which were thought of at the time as extraterrestrials.
That policy of secrecy, of denial of the facts to the public has resulted in a schizophrenic society, one where some subset of a fraction of the society is aware of and in some cases interacting with advanced beings and the general public is not.
However over time as more and more UFO and ET reports occur, the general public has become aware of the existence of advanced beings. At this point, polls show that 50+% of the American people believe some UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft and 85+% believe their government is not telling the truth of the matter.
And over time the populace has become inured to the notion that the government does not tell the truth. And with that, the social contract between government and the governed has broken down. A cynical attitude that assumes the government will lie and do as it pleases has reduced the civilian participation in government, which is the backbone of a democracy. "No free people," Kennedy asserted in 1961, "can be kept free without will and energy of their own."
An indication of how far those who know what truth there is will go to keep it as secret as it is, is the revelation by Honolulu Exopolitics Examiner Michael Salla of evidence that the CIA may have felt compelled to kill President John F. Kennedy -- the same man who inspired the Apollo program in the first place -- over Kennedy's intention to reveal, in a joint effort with the Soviets, the existence of UFO data held secret by the shadow government. Kennedy had warned, like Dwight Eisenhower before him, the American people of the dangers of excessive secrecy.
Imagine that you are an explorer who has just completed one of the grandest adventures of all time, discovered one of the most significant paradigm shifting truths of your civilization's history, and for reasons explained to you of national security, you were compelled to not announce to the world what you know.
What if, as has been speculated, the crew of Apollo 11 had first hand observational knowledge that man was not alone on planet Earth and its moon, never mind the universe? And what if they were told to keep that knowledge secret? Being high integrity military trained personnel, they would have done so, regardless of the cost to their personal equanimity.
In that light, the tone post Apollo 11 press conference remarks by Neil Armstrong seem strained.
On the 25th anniversary, a reclusive Armstrong returned to the public eye just long enough to make the following cryptic remarks at a White House ceremony.
"Today we have with us a group of students, among America's best. To you we say: 'We've only completed a beginning. We leave you much that is undone. There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth's protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief. Those challenges are yours. In many fields, not just in Space, because therein lies human destiny."
— Neil Armstrong, 25th anniversary of Apollo 11 Landing.
In both cases, whatever the astronauts are NOT saying is more telling than what they do say.
Clearly the landing of Apollo 11 and the arrival of humanity as a spacefaring species is one of the biggest events of our lifetimes--those of us old enough to be alive when it happened.
But, forty years on, the question has become so glaring that it no longer can be dismissed easily:
- Why did we not continue the Apollo program through the 20 odd scheduled exploratory missions?
- Why was a moon base not established within 10-15 years of first landing?
- Why was our space program relegated to a space shuttle designed to boost parts into place for a minimal space station on Low Earth Orbit?
- Why did the government launch a defense department survey, the Clementine mission, to survey the moon in high resolution?
- Why, as the Chinese and soon the Indian space programs are showing signs of reaching the moon, is a mission being launched to demolish a location on the lunar surface?
Forty years ago America was at the pinnacle of its spacefaring abilities. In the ensuing 4 decades, the promise that Kennedy gave us of Apollo goes unfulfilled.
It is as if Columbus had pioneered a route to the New World, hung around on the islands for a while, collected a few seashells and plants and then returned to Spain and burned the plans to the Santa Maria, never to return again.
The timeworn excuse of a 'lack of political will' no longer explains an unnatural lack of human curiosity and exploratory bravado.
One explanation that does begin to make sense is that humanity found something on the moon that confirmed the existence of advanced beings and that space exploration had to be curtailed to conform with the truth embargo that has existed since Roswell.
And if the government is not telling us the truth about our place in the universe, what, if anything, are they telling us the truth about?
Note: Permission is granted to include short extracts of this article on websites and email lists with a link to the original. This article is copyright © and should not be added in its entirity on other websites or email lists without author's permission.