Any nerd, geek, dork, or other-type-genius of a certain age who suffered no pang of nostalgia this week during the wah-hoo over the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission might want to have her obstreperal lobe checked for leaks.
I offer a few unconnected remarks on the subject. The remarks are unconnected because in these grim days of round-the-clock puppy-raising and mandatory commutes to Austin, I am a blogger in name only. If you have not come to expect this sort of crappy slipshod essay from me yet, please do so from now on. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better around here, prose-wise.
Agreed. If I read one more sentimental recollection of the lunar landing beginning with the word “I” and invoking a grandparent — Prez Obama is one notable perp — I’m gonna yak.
Apostate’s beef, however, is not with the painful tedium of Campos’ opening reminiscence. She is crabbed because of this paragraph:
Considered as an incredibly expensive and complex exercise in practical engineering, the Apollo program was indeed a stunning achievement. In many ways it was a paradigmatically American achievement, and specifically of American men, or rather boys as men (think of the most impressive neighborhood treehouse, times ten million). Aside from putting the Russians in their place, the most important motivation was probably the sheer desire to figure out how to actually make the thing work. And it was an intensely and peculiarly male project: I don’t recall ever seeing a single woman in that huge Houston control center, where hundreds of guys in short-sleeved white shirts and crewcuts ran the show.
That Campos goes on to observe that
“One measure of how much has changed in the last 40 years is that the very idea of a woman astronaut in the 1960s would have seemed outlandish to most Americans”
does not appease Apostate one whit. I’m down, Apostate! Campos’ tone in this summary is peculiarly male. He’s almost giddy about the good old days of dudely science, of the pissing contest with the Russians, of boys building rockets in the clubhouse. And he seems to be suggesting that women astronauts is no longer an outlandish concept.
That’s a hot one. How many women astronauts can he name, I wonder?
That the entirety of this week’s “I was wee lad watching the lunar landing with my grandpa” memoirpalooza is likewise peculiarly male is not lost on Susan Niebur, blogging at Women in Planetary Science (“Women make up half the bodies in the solar system. Why not half the scientists?”). She is “bothered” that dudes talking about Apollo invariably say things like “I remember every time an Apollo mission would take place that, like a lot of little boys, I’d gather in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours with my little brother.”
“What was it like to be a little girl at the time?” Niebur muses. “Was it the same kind of experience, or was there really a difference?”
In 1969, the difference between being a little boy and a little girl was like the difference between being a little boy and a little girl in 2009, except that in 1969, it was still believed by a stalwart few that feminism might fix some of that shit.
In 1969 some of us “little girls” didn’t yet realize that identifying with Captain Kirk instead of the green alien belly dancer chick was a crime against the binary gender mandate. We watched Apollo 11 on TV (I can’t remember who I watched it with, you’ll be happy to know, or whether, upon viewing the spectacle, they pronounced unto me any trenchant remarks concerning the magnificence of the human race) and thought, “cool.” But soon enough we figured out what time it was. Dudes were astronauts, women raised babies. Any ideas we had of chasing around the universe in space ships died a smelly, pirulent death. We would grow up to write patriarchy-blaming blogs and read nostalgic “when I was a boy” crap about Apollo on the internet.
It turns out that there were four women engineers working on Apollo 11, but apparently Walter Cronkite was too choked up about the magnificence of mankind’s giant leap to interview them. There’s a book about them, though. The Women of Apollo, it’s called, The Stories of Judith Cohen, Ann Dickson, Ann Maybury, and Bobbie Johnson, Four Remarkable Women Who Helped Put the First Man on the Moon. The book is crappy and written for children. Children who, apparently, need to be shown how women can help men do cool shit.
After pondering all this, it was with some delight that I watched a sensational “documentary” on TruTV (originally produced by Fox, naturally) explaining that the Apollo lunar landings were all a hoax. This show is great. It presents about 468 pieces of tantalizingly plausible anti-scientific evidence demonstrating that the moon missions were faked: doctored photos, inconsistencies and lack of verisimilitude in the video, how come there’s no blast crater under the LEM, etc. There are science guys saying, “It had to be fake because the challenges were just fucking insurmountable, otherwise the Russians would have done it, too.” And of course the obligatory roster of mysterious untimely deaths of people who knew too much, and an invocation of Area 51. Then there’s a guy from NASA who just keeps saying “no, the conspiracy theorists are wrong because they’re just wrong.”
Hahahaha. I laughed and laughed.
As cool as moon landings used to be, and as integral to my childhood narrative, it would totally lube my lobe if it turned out that the “intensely and peculiarly male” Apollo project really was a hoax. Just so I could say nyah nyah.
One last thing. How come the Americans were “astronauts” and the Russians were “cosmonauts”?