NBC News anchor Brian Williams ruminated about how he feels about the United States in an interview on actor Alec Baldwin’s radio show, according to a March 5, 2013 story in the Blaze. The quote that has eyebrows raising was interesting in the why as well as the what.
“I have the same disappointments in my patriotism. As a great man once said, I yield to no one. I love this country. I love the American idea. I have profound disappointments in my country. I feel we ought to be in space … because it meant so much to us … technologically. It moved us along.”
Williams’ disappointment is something that is widely felt among people who were of age during the Apollo program. Williams was ten years old when Apollo 11 landed men in the lunar surface. Roger Lanius, a historian, even wrote a scholarly essay in the subject, entitled “Perceptions of Apollo: Myth, Nostalgia, Memory, or All of the Above.”
In the essay he concludes, “This mythical/nostalgic perspective has advanced over time into the mainstream of culture. The perceived success of Apollo solidiﬁed an image of exploration and success more than anything else that NASA ever did, despite astounding robotic missions throughout the Solar System, and it has served as the standard against which the very public bungling of NASA since the Moon landings have been measured. Increasingly, nothing NASA can do equals the success of Apollo. Indeed, one of the most signiﬁcant myths arising from Apollo may well be the belief that the USA can accomplish any task no matter how difﬁcult, if it resolves to do so.”
Lanius goes on to suggest that this yearning for the glories of the Apollo program has led to the desire to recreate it, something he believes is impossible since reality can never be as great as myth.
NASA, despite Williams’ poorly chosen words, is doing things in space. The International Space Station does exist with a crew that includes Americans. NASA is also, haltingly, building the hardware to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time in decades.
Yet Williams also has a point, considering that the National Research Council has issued a report that suggests that the current effort – unlike Apollo – lacks leadership, direction, and funding. Perhaps the secret to recreating at least the spirit of Apollo, which Williams clearly yearns for, is not so much to try to recreate the grand adventure, but simply those three elements that Apollo had and the current effort lacks. Then, perhaps, the adventure will follow and all that implies, including perhaps a renewed pride in country by people like Williams.