Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Wonder Out Yonder

The day after the Soviet Union launched sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957, Earl Ubell wrote on the front page of The New York Herald Tribune, "Our planet has a new moon tonight,” one of the most haunting leads in newspaper history, which both captures the wonder and hints at the hubris of humankind’s future in space. Sputnik launched the space race, deepening Cold War anxieties that the Russians had beaten us into orbit and driving the American satellite program to make sure that the first flag planted on the moon was our own. Space had become the new frontier, a vast place for American pioneers to explore and a challenge for American technology to conquer. But there was always a deeper element at work, one that all the technocrats could never crush, exemplified by William Pogue, an astronaut who died last week. About halfway through his 84-day stint in space, Pogue led the three-man Skylab crew on strike, protesting the long hours and tedious work. He did not demand increased pay or compensatory time, but, Paul Vitello writes in his obituary, “he and the others just wanted more time to look out the window and think.” The crew on the ground thought he’d gone nuts, but in fact Pogue had become “much more inclined toward humanistic feeling toward other people.” I like to think it is just that urge to understand the human condition and our place in the universe, more than military rivalry and commercial exploitation, that sends humans into space.

An Appeal to Reason

Janzen on Diversity