[FPSPACE] JimO: Sputnik's Legacy

Keith Gottschalk kgottschalk at uwc.ac.za
Sat Sep 22 08:06:35 EDT 2007

>>>> "Jim Oberg" <jeoberg at comcast.net> 09/21/07 11:19 PM >>>
>Sputnik's Legacy
>As a 12-year-old 'space nut' reading everything he could find about
the coming 'Space Age' even I knew it was going to be 
>a breakthrough chapter in human history, even as it reflected innate
human instincts for exploration. And it did.

       JimO, you're tugging at my childhood memories too!  

      Up to September 1957, my uncles & aunts were patronising with
put-downs & concerned that I, as an 11-year old, had not grown up out of
fairy tales & childrens' fantasies about satellites, space travel, and
flying to the Moon & Mars. After 4th October, I got some respect!
>Shortly after the Apollo-11 landing (and shortly before his death), my
grandfather spoke with me of the cultural changes he 

   You've reminded me that my granddad, born in 1882 in (Tsarist)
Lativa, died in 1971, so that he too spanned from pre-Wright to
post-Apollo. My great-aunts, who had fled from Tsarist Poland, told me
that in their childhood they had heard that:

"In the West, you walk into a dark room, touch the wall, & suddenly the
room is full of light".

>The 'flight revolution' of my grandfather's lifetime, a transportation
technology quantum leap, brought peoples and places on 

   When my last great-aunt died in 1991, she had just thrown out an
Imperial Airways advertising pamphlet for the first scheduled
flying-boat trips between the UK and South Africa in 1935.

> Sure, the communication revolution helped too, but

   I tell three hundred gum-chewing, ipod-stethoscoped teenagers in my
first-year classes how Syncom 3 caused a sensation by real-time TV
broadcasts of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics around the world. Before that, it
usually took at least a fortnight for celluloid newsreels to be flown
from Hollywood to South African cinemas.

>some of those lights in the sky constituted worlds of their own, not
merely fuzzy images on the wall of [.....]
>As the images grew sharper from more distant worlds, 

   During Mars' closest approach of 1956, the newspapers published the
best photo from the biggest telescope on earth, the 200" at Palomar.
Mars was a very fuzzy blur the size of a marble. By the 2005 approach,
Sky & Telescope published a better photo taken by - a US amateur through
a 16" telescope, thanks to digital stacking of images from his CCD

>rovers dug into the ground, spewing dirt with no dusty swirls. We saw
images of Jovian system geysers of molten sulfur, we 
>saw eroded shorelines of the ethane seas of Titan, we saw bizarre
collapse holes on Martian calderas, we saw the shadow 
>of a far-ranging space probe on the small asteroid it was

   While we had seen Chesley Bonestel's paintings, photos had a much
more immense impact that it is true.

>So now, thanks to the 'Space Age', we are equipped with this concept
of "our world as a neighborhood", and we are 
>persuaded of the truth of this concept by 50 years of space
exploration. I am persuaded that the cultural influence of the 
>Space Age has also provided us with the beginnings of the
technologies, the outlines of the adequate understandings, and 
>the glimmerings of the required wisdom needed to take on the
challenges (and opportunities) that will confront humanity. 
>These will include cultural clashes, political and philosophical
squabbles, environmental causes and effects, climate shifts 
>and biosphere repercussions, "classic" natural catastrophes, and some
unpleasant surprises as well.
>That's OK, I can now tell MY grandchildren. As a child, I had only
hoped for miraculous gadgets -- now I can anticipate a 
>civilization worthy of them.

     Before your two paras above, your writings had taken a true, but
stern & sharp view, about astronauts who look through the window in LEO
& make fuzzy feel-good one-world comments, which had no impact on
earthly repression or foreign policy aggression by certain space powers.

        I welcome your shift of nuance. Without deluding ourselves that
all space powers are already democracies, led us hope that the ISS,
space & Antarctic exploration, the weaving together of trade &
investment, are amongst those ties in the one pan of the scales, that
weight against the war-mongering factors on the other pan of the scales.
So far, the ICBM and its successor rockets are the major example of
literally turning swords into ploughshares. 

      What would Mr. Stalin have thought, that sixty years after his
historic 1947 office meeting to order the start of the project that
culminated in building the semyorka, that it killed not one American,
but gave fantasy holidays to four of the richest of them!

yours in celebration of the forthcoming golden anniversary,

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