Saturday, August 25, 2012

Requiescat in pace: Neil Alden Armstrong (1930-2012), American astronaut, hero to the human race

My friend Patterico has a post up honoring a true American hero who passed away today — Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. Lightly edited and without blockquoting, here's the comment I left on his blog:


I was born in 1957, the year of Sputnik — indeed, during its few weeks of orbit — so I was old enough not just to watch, but to relish, the 1969 Apollo 11 landing. Indeed, although I don’t quite remember Alan Shepard’s flight, I do definitely remember John Glenn’s, and all the rest of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights which preceded or followed Apollo 11.

Neil Armstrong, on the surface of the moon in July 1969By July 1969, I had several models of each major component spacecraft of the Apollo system, constructed variously of plastic, paper, or balsa wood and with varying levels of detail. Some of them were working model rockets that I’d sent hundreds of feet into the air before they returned to earth on their plastic parachutes. I was almost certainly an insufferable fan. I remember accompanying my father to the barbershop some weeks before the landing; while he got his haircuit, I was explaining to all the grownups present how the Lunar Excursion Module was practically made of aluminum foil, and that the real one was less rugged than some of my models. On the fateful day, while Walter Cronkite narrated, Armstrong was piloting the real LEM over and around the boulders strewn across the Sea of Tranquility, and I was piloting my favorite and most detailed plastic version over and around the sofas, chairs, and other obstacles of the Dyer living room. Neil and I had simultaneous, and equally successful, touchdowns. The whole world celebrated.

Folks are apparently still arguing over whether Armstrong said “One small step for man,” which made no sense, or “One small step for a man,” which made perfect sense. I wish historians could get their acts together and report it the way it makes sense, even if they feel compelled to drop a footnote to suggest that Armstrong might have inadvertently swallowed the “a.” Let’s recognize that Armstrong didn’t have the luxury that Doug MacArthur had to re-film his return to the Philippines and re-shoot his famous “I have returned” line until he was entirely satisfied with it.

Armstrong wasn’t just a lucky guy who was in the right place at the right time to snag a history-making role — although there was some luck involved in his beating out the other Apollo astronaut candidates and astronaut wannabes. Rather, he and his fellows were extraordinary pilots and professionals, patriots who’d seen friends blown apart or burned up while pushing the boundaries of manned flight. They all knew the same could happen to them at almost any moment, but they were all righteously committed to helping make that giant leap for mankind. Can we at least give them all the benefit of a generous standard for quoting what might in fact have been said, and what clearly was meant to be said, instead of a truncated and nonsensical version of that quote?

Posted by Beldar at 04:30 PM in Film/TV/Stage, History, Science, Technology/products, Travel | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Political parties and science

I am often annoyed by those of my liberal friends who insist that Republicans are anti-science. I'm not anti-science, but I'm a Republican; and there's not a conflict between those two things as far as I'm concerned. I'm confident there's no causal relationship between the two, and I've never been persuaded that there's even a positive correlation. So I found fairly interesting this essay from, which in turn is based in part on an interesting op-ed in USA Today from the editor of RealClearScience. Both make interesting reading.

Posted by Beldar at 11:58 PM in Science | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Al Gore, from the standpoint of idiocy

Jonah Goldberg aptly mocks this sentence from Nobel Prize winner Man-Bear-Pig Al Gore in a global warming op-ed in today's NYT:

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.

Notes Goldberg (ellipsis his):

Surely, a claim is in trouble when you can swap out a phrase like "from the standpoint of governance" and helpfully replace it with "from the standpoint of Glaxar: Supreme Ruler of the Known Universe" or "from the standpoint of the Hale-Bopp Cult ...."

But what would you expect when reading the writings of a global warming fanatic whose college degree is not in any sort of science (much less weather-related science), but instead in journalism? What wise words do you expect on the subject of the "rule of law" from a law-school dropout, or on the subject of "human redemption" from someone who flunked out of divinity school?

Laughter may be somewhat redemptive, though — of sanity, if not of the soul. And Al Gore continues to be good for a laugh.

Posted by Beldar at 02:21 PM in Current Affairs, Science | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack