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Tom's Tidbits- Pigs... In... SPAAAAACE!

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For my 9-year-old best friend Greg and me, the Moon was the center of the Universe in 1969. We built the models and listened to the news, and our whole school was transfixed by a black-and-white TV in the gym as Armstrong took his first steps. The Apollo program could have opened a new future, but no. For 50 years humanity has played in the kiddie pool of earth orbit while the ocean of space went unexplored.

I desperately want to be excited, thrilled, and proud that we're getting back into space but I'm ambivalent at best, and it seems I'm not alone. The Billionaire Space Race isn't a story of human achievement as much as a cancerous breakdown of an economic system. When Bezos returned, he thanked "...every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this." 52 years earlier, to the day, Neil's immortal words were "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."* Maybe that's the crux of the problem.

Once upon a time America went to space for 'us', but the 'us' was hazy even then. Having 'Whitey On The Moon' didn't make blacks part of 'us' in Jim Crow's America. The women who birthed the space program somehow weren't 'us'. Cold War Soviets were absolutely not 'us'. Still, common humanity got a nod as Neil congratulated 'mankind', the lunar plaque insisted 'we came in peace for all mankind', and every person with a radio or TV felt part of 'mankind's' achievement. In 1969 it was about humanity, not Neil. In 2021 it was all about one billionaire, barely about the three human props with him, and certainly not about the rest of 'us'.

No, 'we' are still grappling with problems here on Earth just as we were in 1969. Problems like hunger, poverty, homelessness, war, pollution, and overpopulation, are still here, so why waste scarce resources in space? But it's never been an either/or choice, it's always been both/and. The resources of America (and humanity) are vast and we can apply them to many priorities, in fact we must. Apollo promised spinoffs that would build industries and change lives back on Earth, and we see the benefits in computers, materials, satellites, and more. Elon Musk, to his credit, contributed to 'our' exploration of space by re-inventing space travel with reusable boosters. His Dragon capsule has routinely delivered cargo to the International Space Station since 2012, and humans since 2020. SpaceX is now the only way 'our' American astronauts can launch from American soil. (Take that, you pesky Russians!) Contrast that with Branson's souped-up airplane flight to upper sky, or Bezos 4-seater-penis ride to the basement of space, neither of which even pretends to benefit anyone other than the ultra-rich.

There's value in sending regular people into space, but a billionaire is not a regular person. Apollo astronauts were awed by their experiences in space, speaking of the unity of humanity, the delicacy of the planet, and the humbling knowledge of mankind's place in the cosmos. Not Bezos, whose r evelatory idea was "...to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space." Space is not, and can never be, a magic dumping ground for Earth's problems. We can no more 'move polluting industries' into space than we can move 9 billion people to space stations if our biosphere collapses. The Apollo astronauts' lessons touched us all because the astronauts realized 'we' are all in this together. A billionaire's wealth divorces them from the needs, wants, and fates of regular people. 'Common humanity' is a lesson they can never learn, and can never be part of their plans.

Humans have dreamed of space since we realized the sky was more than the Earth's ceiling. In many ways I'm still the 9-year-old playing on the floor, dreaming dreams of space with people I'll never meet. The Billionaires aren't helping make those dreams come true, they're stealing them, replacing stars that once called 'us' to explore with dollars calling 'them' to exploit. But space is big, bigger than even a billionaire's greed. None of us need to stop dreaming. Space will still be there... one day... for 'us' too.

Make a great day,

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Digging Deeper...

In closing, here are just a few quotes from real astronauts, back in the days of 'our' space program...

"I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of, let's say 100,000 miles, their outlook would be fundamentally changed. The all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument suddenly silenced." - Michael Collins

"I was flabbergasted. I thought that when we went someplace they'd said, 'Well congratulations, you Americans finally did it.' And instead of that, unanimously, the reaction was, 'We did it. We humans finally left this planet. We did it.'" - Michael Collins, in a CBS interview with Jeffrey Kluger, co-author of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13.

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Tom's Tidbits- Pigs... In... SPAAAAACE!

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