The Challenge Of The Spaceship: Spaceflight As It Should Have Been And As It Was


The phrase “The Challenge of the Spaceship” is the title of an early 1950s popular science article by the late Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), best known as the scenarist for Stanley Kubrick’s enigmatic space travel film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Clarke, a radio-electronics engineer who switched to writing science fiction stories in the late 1940s and became a dean of the genre, used the title again when he anthologized that article with a dozen others for book publication in 1955. (There were republications with additional material in subsequent years.) With other science fiction writers – like John W. Campbell, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov – Clarke helped immensely to inspire the actual space program in the West, chiefly of course in the United States. The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service and the pointlessness of its destination the International Space Station have consigned to oblivion the memory of the actual space program, the climax of which came with the moon landings of the three years 1969 to 1972. NASA, fully complicit in the public’s indifference to its bailiwick, still sends robotic probes to the planets and moons, with diverting results, but has long since lost the courage necessary for manned exploration of the solar system.

When the Obama administration recently killed off the Ares Orbital Booster and Orion Upper Stage, NASA could muster no persuasive objection. Nor did the public care. No American or European astronaut will set foot on the moon or Mars in the foreseeable future although the Chinese have announced their interest in establishing a lunar presence. The USA will in fact not possess even so much as its own manned orbital capability starting in 2011.

Planetary exploration, that last great endeavor of what Oswald Spengler called Faustian Culture – the spiritual movement that built the great cathedrals of Christian Europe and that invented science and technology – is dead. On its tomb we see rise the social-welfare “nanny state,” multiculturalism, affirmative action, Gaia-worship, the entertainment industry, and an education establishment nationalized, feminized, and purged of intellectual rigor so as to make room for insipid self-esteem and the cultivation of homey errands that (how to put it?) teenage girls can do. Contemporary society, like the teenage girl, takes interest in itself primarily, in a preening and thoroughly petty way. The postmodern social order dresses women up as soldiers, it puts them in dangerous aircraft as pilots, and it even sends some of them on Shuttle missions, but it lacks the outward urge of the true pioneering spirit. The de-spirited dhimmi-polity meanwhile cozies up to Stone Age barbarians but refuses to rebuild its own fallen towers ten years after they fell.

According to science fiction, the agenda should have realized itself much more aggressively than it did. Instead of ending in a pathetic whimper, it should have thundered outward leap by fiery leap – to the moon, to Mars, to the asteroids, and from the outer planets, using novel propulsion systems, to the worlds of the nearby stars. Men should have reached the moon by 1960 and Mars by 1970. Even the Apollo Program, with its successful missions, disappointed those who had imagined space travel in a literary or speculative mode beginning in the 1930s. The preparations for launching the Saturn V rocket involved the tedium of weeks. The take-off of the Saturn V, as tall as a forty-story building and as heavy as a nuclear submarine, resulted only in a cramped spider-like contraption actually touching down on the lunar surface. The returning capsule parachuted into the ocean, bobbing there until Navy helicopters plucked it to safety on a flattop. A frightened Space Agency cancelled the last three Apollo missions, considering that statistically it had run out of luck. NASA managers concluded that the agency could not survive public horror over astronauts stranded and perishing on the lunar surface. In the longer term, however, it turned out that the agency could no more survive timidity than calamity.

The Space Shuttle, like the Saturn V, also roars off in a lavish display after a weeklong countdown. The Shuttle then remains in humble near-earth orbit, flying inverted as though to spurn the stars. Despite its go-nowhere humbleness, the Shuttle has killed four times as many astronauts as the Apollo hardware did. For what? And how might it have been otherwise?

For one thing, the scientific visionaries and their co-visionaries the science fiction writers rarely – I refrain from saying never – foresaw the conquest of space as the jurisdiction of a government bureaucracy. Rather, going back to Jules Verne, they tended to see it as a form of enterprise on the order of building a transcontinental railroad or laying an undersea cable connecting North America with Europe. Indeed, none of the early rocketry pioneers and spaceflight prophets enjoyed state sponsorship. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) taught mathematics in provincial high schools in Russia while writing eccentric books about sending rockets into space and colonizing the solar system. Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945), an American, began experimenting in liquid-fueled rocket propulsion privately in the 1920s, remaining his own man to the end. The United States Army sent Goddard packing when he tried to interest them in his inventions in the early 1940s. Even Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (1912-1977) started as the organizer of a private rocket society during the years of the Weimar Republic. The National Socialist regime quickly recruited as chief engineer of the Wehrmacht’s ballistic rocket program. (Below left to right: Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, von Braun)


Von Braun, a cynical but apolitical manipulator, knew how to wheedle from governments the large resources that he craved. Goddard, to his moral credit, conspicuously lacked such talent, if that were the word. Despite von Braun’s secular triumph in the Apollo Program, Goddard better embodies the space-travel prophet, as Clarke defines that role in his essay.

Clarke writes in “The Challenge of the Spaceship” that, “the urge to explore, to discover, to ‘follow knowledge like a sinking star,’ is a primary human impulse which needs, and can receive, no further justification than its own existence.” Again, “if you asked these men [the visionaries] the purpose of their music, their painting, their exploring or their mathematics, they would probably say that they hoped to increase the beauty or the knowledge of the world,” but the real reason, Clarke asserts, is that “they had no choice in the matter.” Pure curiosity impelled them, even a sense of “play.” One notes that “play” for Clarke means nothing childish or trivial: “The spaceship, when it comes, will be the ultimate toy that will lead mankind from its cloistered nursery out into the playground of the stars.” Clarke’s linkage of space exploration to “play” and to the artistic and philosophic impulses reminds us that Goddard took inspiration from reading H. G. Wells and Percival Lowell in youth.

Goddard’s fervent purpose lay not in the rocket in itself but rather in a destination to which the rocket might take him – or take men – namely the planet Mars, in the Lowell-Flammarion vision of it. Von Braun likewise had plans to reach Mars, elegantly and in a large way by nuclear-electric propulsion. He had to content himself with the moon.

Clark writes in his essay: “It is certainly not being rash – it may even be conservative – to assume that by the last quarter of this century an efficient and reliable method of nuclear propulsion for space vehicles will have been perfected.” An atomic rocket would make available “the whole solar system, and not merely the moon” to space exploration. Such a method approached applicability as early as 1959 in the form of NASA’s “Kiwi” nuclear thermal rocket. Under Project Rover, NASA refined the nuclear thermal rocket for more than a decade. The program of refinement culminated in “NERVA,” an item of flyable hardware, tested on the ground in Nevada in 1965. Political objections doomed “NERVA,” which never flew. NASA de-funded the effort in 1972. Technologically Clarke got the timeline right, but he could not see how the West’s profound cultural loss-of-nerve would derail the pioneering spirit and thwart the application of practical knowledge to actual endeavors.

Lacking the atomic rocket engine, the fitful talk of the last forty years about sending men to Mars has been conjectural at best and self-deluding at worst. In Clarke’s words: “The ‘cheapest’ journey to Mars – as far as fuel is concerned – lasts 258 days. With a nuclear-propelled ship, traveling by a more direct route at quite a moderate speed, it need take only a few weeks.”

Clarke’s first novel Prelude to Space (1947) envisioned a flying-wing-like atomic-reactor-powered atmospheric booster that would put a conventionally fueled second stage into orbit; once in orbit, the second stage would replenish its fuel tanks from pre-positioned bowsers, before making a round trip to the moon. As for Heinlein, like Clarke he foresaw atomic energy as the key to space. Unlike Clarke, however, Heinlein believed that private enterprise would take men into orbit and beyond. In Heinlein’s short story “The Man Who Sold the Moon” (1949), the entrepreneur-visionary Delos D. Harriman has something in common with Goddard and something again with the early Madison Avenue geniuses.

Harriman believes that the moon is exploitable for mining, communications, and other profitable activities. The better part of the story, which in its conclusion vindicates the belief, concerns how Harriman finances his project through investment and shareholding sometimes by pure Elmer Gantry-style salesmanship. Heinlein simplified the story’s market thematics when he adapted his idea for producer George Pal’s film Destination Moon (1949), but he inserted the notion that atomic power would be the means of navigation in space.


In Destination Moon, Heinlein, Pal, and director Irving Pichel express themselves quite as hopefully concerning the practicability of spaceflight as Clarke would a few years later in “The Challenge of the Spaceship” or as he did contemporarily with them in Prelude to Space. “The combined American industry… could put a rocket on the moon in one year,” says one character confidently. But Heinlein and Pal also intuit more clearly than Clarke had done the ideological and political reactions that would bring themselves to bear on spaceflight. A free enterprise film, Destination Moon depicts cowardly politicians stirring up public fears and using them as grounds to stay the launch by court order. Such fears later resulted in the cancellation of the NERVA nuclear thermal rocket, as we have seen. In one of Destination Moon’s pithier lines, “Government means fatal delay.” The Heinlein film created an enduring niche for Pal, who went on to produce and sometimes also direct a series of science fiction films for Paramount Studios.

Spaceflight figures in the mix again in When Worlds Collide (1951), produced by Pal, directed by Byron Haskin, and based on the novel of the same name (1933) by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer. When an astronomer discovers an extra-solar body on collision course with earth, the governments of the world label him a crackpot. A few industrial magnates believe him, however, and agree privately to finance the building of a “Space Ark” to rescue a nucleus of the human species from impending world-annihilation. As in Destination Moon, much of the interest in the story derives from the technical demands of designing and constructing the spaceship. [Clip]

The takeoff in When Worlds Collide is a good deal more exciting than the one in Destination Moon. The “Ark” uses a ramp built into a mountainside (below right), riding a throwaway booster-sled to gain velocity. [Clip] The Worlds rocket ship measures up to a much larger conception than the Destination rocket ship. It must not only transport forty people to a new planet, but also seed corn and livestock and the total physical equipment relevant to beginning civilized life from degree-zero.


In “Challenge of the Spaceship,” perhaps thinking about the Wylie-Balmer novel, Clarke wrote: “There is no doubt that eventually sheer necessity would bring about the conquest of other planets… We know that our Earth will one day become uninhabitable.”

In the early 1950s, Clarke predicted that, “the last quarter of our century will be an age of exploration such as Man has never before known.” In Clarke’s educated guess, “by the year 2000, most of the major bodies in the Solar System will probably have been reached.” Clarke meant, reached by men, not merely by robotic probes. A mass of science fiction stories from the decade 1945-55 heartily seconds Clarke’s assumption, as does the baker’s dozen of spaceflight movies produced during the same ten years. Director Kurt Neumann’s Rocketship XM (1950) and director Lesley Selander’s Flight to Mars (1951) launch expeditions to the Red Planet, the solar system’s object of primary fascination since Giovanni Schiaparelli, Camille Flammarion, and Percival Lowell – all writing towards the end of the Nineteenth Century – described it as vital place and the probable home of an ancient and technically advanced civilization.

In Rocketship XM, the explorers set out for the moon, but a meteor swarm knocks them off course so that they arrive instead at Mars. The altered trajectory is hardly plausible, but never mind. The tight-jawed allure of the film consists in the Mars exploration sequence after the landing. Neumann shot this sequence in Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert and in Death Valley, printing the results in red monochrome. The rest of the film is in standard black-and-white. The explorers, carrying oxygen but not needing cumbersome pressure suits and going on foot, discover the remains of the Martian civilization (below left). They determine that the Martians destroyed themselves in an atomic war, which accounts for the dangerous background radiation given off by the ruins.

In one particularly memorable scene, two of the explorers dig a Martian sculpture from the sand. In black metal, it looks like something by Moore or Picasso (below right). The John Emery character remarks: “Beautiful. The mind that could conceive this must have been of a high order of intelligence, at least the equivalent of earth and perhaps considerably above ours.” [Clip] A remnant of the Martians has degenerated into mutant-primitives.


Flight to Mars has a more deliberate story to tell and it tells that story optimistically in the vocabulary of a 1930s Amazing Stories narrative. [Trailer] The astronaut-explorers make a rough landing on Mars, with their ship sustaining serious damage. They find assistance, however, from the intact Martian civilization that has moved from the cold and nearly airless surface into cozy underground cities. Accommodating Martians, including a fetching mini-skirted girl, treat the earthmen well. Wicked Martians scheme to steal the secret of nuclear propulsion so as to build their own fleet of rockets for conquering the earth. Rocketship XM and Flight to Mars, while differing in seriousness, commonly emphasize the decisive minimalism of the hardware program. In Rocketship XM there seems to be some government sponsorship of a largely private, perhaps university-based, effort. In Flight to Mars, the endeavor appears to be the affair of private enterprise without government subvention or supervision.

Clarke’s roundup of occasional pieces in The Challenge of the Spaceship includes an amusing essay entitled “So You’re Going to Mars.” Clarke uses the gimmick of a newspaper travel column. The savvy narrator addresses a prospective tourist thinking about a vacation to the Red Planet, which the piece conceives to be sufficiently settled to have opened a hotel for visitors. Something of “So You’re Going to Mars” went into the space station sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey – the expectation that going into space might one day be as normal as visiting a neighboring city or a national park. According to Clarke, a roundtrip ticket to Mars in the year 2070 will cost $30,000, or considerably less than what Virgin Galactic will actually charge its first passengers to experience a mere suborbital excursion, with a five minutes of weightlessness, starting a few years from now.

“Port Lowell,” the Mars colony, “has practically everything you’ll find in a city on Earth, though of course on a smaller scale.” The visitor will meet “second-generation colonists,” who are beginning to adapt themselves to conditions outside the hermetic dome. The putative advisor to the prospective tourist remarks how little of the Red Planet has yet been explored. “You can survey a planet from space,” he says, “but in the end someone with a pick and shovel has to do the dirty work of filling in the map.”

Pal’s next science fiction film after When Worlds Collide was The War of the Worlds (1953), based on Wells, about a Martian invasion of our world. After that came Conquest of Space (1955), depicting in its second half the “dirty work” aspect of the first expedition from our world to Mars. [Trailer] Pal’s technical advisors on Conquest of Space were the greatest of all astronomical artists Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986) and the most respectable of the German rocket scientists, Willy Ley (1906-1969), who having worked in private research with von Braun and Hermann Oberth in the 1920s became a refugee from Naziland in 1935. He settled in the United States. Pal’s title, Conquest of Space, comes from the book on which Bonestell and Ley collaborated in 1949.

The book sets forth accessibly how to reach Mars by the smallest number of logistical stages. First, enshrine the principle to build everything big. Next, establish a space station, the film’s “Wheel,” to serve as the assembly and fueling point for an interplanetary vehicle. Next, having prefabricated the vehicle on terra firma, send it up, piece by piece. Finally, launch for Mars from orbit. Given the free-enterprise ethos of Destination Moon and When Worlds Collide – and the helplessness of governments to defend against Martian invaders in The War of the WorldsConquest of Space somewhat surprisingly subordinates its Mars mission to a “Supreme World Space Authority,” never identified with the United Nations, but presumably an arm of it. Nevertheless, the film identifies the authors of the space station and of the large interplanetary vehicle as enterprising individuals whose vision reached farther than the norm who could yet inspire others to cooperate with them in realizing their goal.

General Samuel T. Merritt (Walter Brooke) oversaw the building of the station and has commanded it since completion. Dr. George Fenton (William Hopper) designed both the station and the ship that Merritt’s engineers have been putting together. Fenton arrives to tell Merritt that the goal is not the moon, but Mars.


Certain features of the ship, such as its winged landing stage with turbojet engines, made no sense in terms of a moon journey but they now signify. Mars possesses an atmosphere in which an aerodynamic landing becomes possible. Fenton tells Merritt that departure is urgent, with the general himself to command the undertaking. In this – the unexplained urgency of a translunar mission – Conquest of Space anticipates 2001: A Space Odyssey. Conquest of Space anticipates Kubrick’s film also in Pal’s General Merritt, a human precursor to A Space Odyssey’s HAL. Under stress during the outward journey to Mars, Merritt becomes increasingly testy and moody. He takes to quoting apocalyptic verses from the Old Testament. During the dangerous landing, Merritt snaps and tries to destroy the ship. Captain Merritt prevents him. The General later breaks free from inadequate restraint and tries again to sabotage the expedition. As Captain Merritt grapples with his father to prevent catastrophe, the General shoots himself dead.

The men must remain on Mars for a full twelvemonth before the relative positions of the planets permit the homeward journey. Conquest of Space, under the direction of Byron Haskin, now becomes a planetary survival story, rather like Haskin’s later Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), but much grimmer, the Mars of 1955 being less hospitable than the Mars of 1964. Water is scarce. The General in his madness intentionally spilled much of the reservoir. A providential snowfall solves the problem. The planet’s intensely cold winter and diminishing rations also plague the men. Sergeant Imoto (Benson Fong) nevertheless succeeds in making plants grow in the Martian soil as winter gives way to spring. Conquest ends with the takeoff of the separable Mars-to-Earth module.

Appreciation of Conquest has always been mixed, with many critics dismissing it as perfunctory. I am not so sure. The special effects remain impressive – the best that Pal’s team ever achieved. The actors must do what they can to overcome the wooden script, but they manage to sustain a mood of grim determination. In its depiction of space hardware and the Martian environment, however, Conquest excels. It achieves its sublimity through Bonestell’s dazzling sets and in Ley’s almost mystical vision of planetary exploration. Despite itself, Conquest has a spiritual quality.

Clarke’s Challenge of the Spaceship concludes with an essay entitled “Of Space and the Spirit.” While Clarke was not a religious man and while some of his remarks on religion suggest a Bertrand-Russell type of hostility to established faith he never eschewed the concept of transcendence. In fact, religious and mystical symbolism suffuses Clarke’s work. One has only to think of Childhood’s End (1953) and The City and the Stars (1956), not to mention 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke could not deny a kinship between higher religion and the outward urge. While mocking what he regards as Protestant narrowness, he acknowledges that, “the Catholic Church has already accepted and welcomed the coming of the space age.” Clarke cites Pius XII, who “expressed the view that now that Man has discovered the means of exploring the Universe, God clearly intends him to use it.”

Clarke goes so far as to propose that “any path to knowledge is a path to God – or to reality, whichever word one prefers to use.” Now one could make various objections. It was the last Protestant nation, the United States, which sent men to the moon, not Italy or Brazil. And whereas the man who inaugurated civilization’s curiosity about Mars, Giovanni Schiaparelli, was a Catholic priest, his successors, Camille Flammarion and Percival Lowell, were a secular mystic and a churchless Transcendentalist.

Whatever the details, Clarke was right to view the Great Technical Aspiration of the modern period – the exploration and colonization of space, especially of the planet Mars – under the category of a religious or let us say profoundly spiritual phenomenon. And as healthily rather than perversely religious. From a Spenglerian perspective not incompatible with Clarke’s own view the space program began with the intrepid Norse voyages of the Tenth Century and the Gothic cathedral-architecture of the Twelfth. Perhaps I will irritate any number of people by noting that in 1961 when President Kennedy announced Project Apollo, the United States were still an overwhelmingly Christian and largely Anglo-Saxon nation. On a kind of cultural momentum, the moon landings took place despite the nihilistic calamity of 1968. After 1972 NASA’s efforts became incoherent, as they still are forty years later.

Today the United States are another largely Post-Christian nation in the European-socialist manner whose elites remain implacably hostile to received religion even while their own crusading secularism and socialism resembles the worst kind of bigoted creed. The same elites are contemptuous of real, that is to say non-politicized, science. The space program died because the spirit that articulated it, a spirit open to reality and eager to know it, predeceased it. The prevailing liberal-multicultural anti-spirit stands militantly averse to anything that advantageously differentiates the West, in its historical character, from the “Non-West,” and orderly productive life from indolent resentment.

Postscript 6 July 2010: The foregoing essay, including its final sentence, was written in the fourth week of June. As of the first week of July, there is a new development in the politics of the American space program. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has made a public announcement – to Al Jazeera, naturally – that President Obama has tasked him, as a space agency priority, with “strengthening… ties” between the space program and Islam. According to Fox News, Bolden believes – or has been told say and has no objection to saying – that “better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.” What Muslims have to do with space travel the announcement never explains. As with everything contemporary, the new NASA priority seeks to advance self-esteem, just not NASA’s or America’s. Quoting Bolden again from a Fox News article: “When I became the NASA administrator… [Obama] charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science... and math and engineering.”

Romney again # 2

@ Atheling

I will briefly address your 'serious' points.

1) Health care is a very complex subject which neither you nor I can deal with in any depth in a few paragraphs.   Before Obamacare came on the scene, America had numerous different types of health care, reflecting in large measure different state preferences.  To my mind, regulation of health care should be a state matter, and not a federal one.  "Romneycare" reflects Massachusetts' sub-culture and will be, no doubt, constantly evolving.  Romney certainly does not support a federal takeover of health care, but he does believe in 'local' efforts to make health care 'accessable' to all, a position that the overwhelming majority of Americans agrees with in principle.

2) The "mudslinging" in South Carolina had nothing to do with Romney. It is remarkable how you can 'fuse' a discussion about Romney into local South Carolina matters, especially since he supported the 'right' (in the sense of best) Republican candidate. No doubt, Palin's endorsement of the same candidate may have helped that candidate more on the 'right' of the political spectrum, in the primary, but it is ultimately the general election that will matter. Opinion polls do not support your contention that "Palin's endorsement" matters more than Romney's. On the contrary, resistance to her among independents and certainly Democrats is much greater.

3) You make assertions about Romney's presumed "silence" on a variety of issues. They are assertions, not facts. Moreover, the next presidential election is more than 2 years away. The focus today should be on the November Congressional elections.

4) You, as a thinking person, cannot possibly think that Palin would be better qualified than Romney (in terms of understanding) concerning geopolitics, including nuclear policy, although I have great respect for her 'instincts' in that regard. I suggest (again) that you read Romney's book, and also that you try to imagine a future press conference in Berlin or Beijing with Palin pontificating on nuclear policy. If you 'cringed', like I often did during the GWBush years, just try to imagine...

5) Your last paragraph is not serious and you seem to confuse "leadership" with media celebrity (both positive and negative). Romney came very close to winning the Republican primaries in 2008 (and he won in more states than McCain), when Palin was a virtual unknown. Both in terms of experience and "electoral record", there is no comparison.

I am as much a 'tea party' supporter as you are, and I did attend the big rally in Washington last fall. But, if your 'extremism' prevails, and the movement does not fully support all Republicans chosen in their respective local primaries, then you will hand another victory to the 'socialists', as you did last year in the Congressional election in northern New York.

@marcfrans I understand


I understand that you approve communism as long as majority of citizens (on local level) support it. This is kind of fanatical democratism rooted deeply in totalitarianism.

The most pathetic type of politician is the one who run policy that he personally consider wrong. Only cowards and opportunists hide behind the will of the people. A leader never would.

Some day atheling will understand that anything close to true cannot be achieved in democratic process. You are a lost case :)


Marcfrans wrote: “I thought the comparison with General Bolden unfair, in the sense of inappropriate.”

I concede the point and hope that Marcfrans will consider the comparison to be withdrawn.

Best, TFB

Romney again

The race for the American Presidency is not a race for sainthood nor for all-encompassing wisdom. Politicians should be judged within a realistic context within which they have to operate, and they should also be 'measured' against realistic alternatives available. This being said, I recognize that individual tastes and assessments will differ among TBJ readers.

I found Atheling's negative comments on Romney excessively 'partisan' and the language employed overly emotional, perhaps induced by strong resentment of the unfair treatment that has been Palin's lot and for which Romney is certainly not responsible.

Thomas Bertonneau expects a "sense of cosmic orientation, of science and of human learning" from the (future) leader of the free world, and rightly so. On that score, Romney may not fully meet his expectations, but I submit that Romney meets them better than Palin does, and I thought the comparison with General Bolden unfair, in the sense of inappropriate. To my mind these two are not in the same league at all, when it comes to understanding the world.

I urge everyone to read Romney's recent book ("No Apology"), keeping in mind that this kind of book is not aimed at academics nor 'experts', but rather at the general public (at least the reading and thinking part of it). I was impressed by his 'take' and the breadth of his understanding of the 'big picture' concerning geopolitics, macroeconomics, education and 'civics'.

@ marcfrans: the ideal candidate...

The race for the American Presidency is not a race for sainthood nor for all-encompassing wisdom. Politicians should be judged within a realistic context within which they have to operate, and they should also be 'measured' against realistic alternatives available.

This is a very sound comment, and one that ought to be considered closely. We all "know" what would be ideal, and what ought to be the case. At the same time we all understand (if we are honest with ourselves) what can likely be accomplished within the "real world."

Tom Bertonneau, whose article we now comment within, has taught us the ideas of his own intellectual mentor, Mr. Voegelin. Should we not, then, consider the intellectual ground for that which we might now speak (or write)? That is to say, we must not abandon the"real world" for some sort of gnostic "ideal" that may or may not have any relevance to normal life.

If Candidate A were the only choice it would be one thing. But we must always consider other possibilities, if available. And we must not let personalities come between us. I myself have been often perplexed by some things marcfrans has said over the course of the past year or so, but in this I find myself quite agreeable with his thinking.

RE: Romney and Utter Nonsense

I find marcfrans comment regarding my criticism of Romney to be unsubstantial. I listed why Romney is not a good candidate, particularly his role in Massachusetts' financial problems because of Romneycare and his inability to connect with everyday Americans. I also listed his silence on the hot button issues, such as Obamacare (understandably, since that would raise the spectre of Romneycare).

Marcfrans did not address any of my points, but simply made allegations about my puported "emotional" language.



Mpresley writes: “What any of this has to do with space travel is beyond me, but I’ll take the blame for it.”

Even as a tax sucking, government administered bureaucracy, the American space program articulated a degree of cultural vitality. It might have been the last collective activity to do so. For this reason it is not implausible to liken the moon landings to the cycle of Cathedral construction in the age of Gothic Christianity although spiritual precedence belongs to the latter. Project Apollo likely represented the last gasp of Western, nationalist coherency and in this sense the demise of the “outward urge” in national policy and self-definition is one with the corruption of everything into the stupidity of consumerism and the welfare state.

The Space Shuttle and the International Space Station are on the order of welfare for what remains of NASA, except that in this case the check has run out and nothing lies ahead except total incoherency under the totally incoherent Charles Bolden, an Obama appointee with no scientific training whatsoever and no discernible humane education. The inarticulacy of the “conservative opposition” to Obama, whose tendencies, like those of all liberals and socialists, are entirely destructive, correspond to the spirit of dissolution that governs our age, for which NASA is one bellwether among many.

As for Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney – I doubt that either one has any greater sense of cosmic orientation, of science or of humane learning, than General Bolden. They too are signs of the times: Media-manipulators, empty suits, talking coiffures.

The answer to Mpresley’s question, then, is that all of the discussion stemming from “The Challenge of the Spaceship” has to do with the incoherency of the age.

Best to all, TFB

The Final Frontier

I agree with Prof. Bertonneau that the state of the space program is a good barometer of Americans' fidelity to their better angels. In the current state of affairs, it is as if Thomas Pynchon had replaced Frederick Turner as the head of NASA.

Some of you will recall that Pynchon's early 1970's novel, Gravity's Rainbow, positions the origin of our space program--a unique model of the V-2 rocket is the novel's Holy Grail, sought after by an American, a German, and a Russian--in a matrix of sexual perversion, drug-addled hallucination, and Skinnerian conditioning. Our urge to transcendence, per Pynchon, is hellish and corrupted, though I would not say there is not a vestige of the Good.

By contrast, Frederick Turner's epic poem Genesis celebrates our first effort, scheduled for later this century, to colonize Mars. Daring, genius, endurance, love, and divine inspiration all play their part. And the Terraformers have to fight the Eco-Theists who run the United Nations!

Under the leftism of the Obama years, we have a Pynchonesque view of our civilization and its achievements. God willing, we will regain the Turner view.

Information # 3

@ mpresley

Thank you for your comments.  I tend to agree with your responses/comments regarding the 3 indicators of "chinese intrigues", but I disagree with much else of what you wrote.

China's political system remains totalitarian in nature, although it has become more 'predictable' (or somewhat less arbitrary) for the average Chinese. There can be no genuine predictable "rule of law" in such an environment, only the "rule of men" (of some in the Politbureau).  Also, today China does "have its hands in more places" (around the world) than you probably care to know. In what sense does it have to be more "concerned about us"? In the same sense that Canada or Belgium have to be "concerned" about the US? It is simply NOT true that China has "historically" not been an aggressor. One should not reduce history to the 19th century of European dominance and colonialism in Asia. And even in more recent history China has fought various wars with some of its neighbors and has taken territory (including in Tibet, India, Vietnam), and the border between Asia's two 'giants' (China and India) remains in open dispute. In addition Mainland China makes 'claims' on racial grounds of wanting to unite all 'Chinese', irrespective of whether these Chinese (e.g. Taiwan) want to be ruled by the Beijing Politbureau or not...

The Chinese will do what they judge to be in their interest as far as buying US Treasury bonds and the bilateral exchange rate with the US are concerned. The US should likewise do what is in its interest. These are complex matters, but it is simply not true that we are "sliding into Third World economic status". That kind of alarmism is unwarranted and overlooks the longer trends. The great thing about 'democracy' is that people can adjust to new circumstances and act accordingly in the political arena. The Chinese are not so lucky...


I suspect that if we sat down over beers we'd discover that we are not too far apart, at all. Whatever the case, as you point out, anyone dealing with the Chinese government should understand that they are principally only interested in China. They have no misguided "we are the world" ideas, at least as far as I can tell. It has also been my experience that those among the Chinese diaspora are, in fact, of the China first mindset, regardless of where they are living.

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

You correctly identify Tom Bertonneau as a truly gifted communicator, but for a change of pace and intellectual scenery, might I suggest you try initiating a debate or two with my old 'Chica', Kappert?

Please, be my guest ;-))

Take care.





@ mpresley

Thank you for that constructive comment. (Forgive me, your comments are always constructive and, may I say, it's  a pleasure to read your personal contributions here at TBJ).

Romney's liberal political baggage aside, shall I tell you what I'd like to see come election time in 2012? Mitt Romney and Bobby Jindal on the same platform, or vice-versa. Now THAT'S the ticket!

Re: Romney

2012? Ain't gonna happen.

First of all, Jindal has already said that he has no interest in running for POTUS or any national ticket. He is devoted to governing Lousiana.

Second, Romney's baggage is EXACTLY what is going to lose the primaries for him.

How in the world can the Republican Party run on a platform of repealing Obamacare, yet foist the architect of Romneycare (which is Obamacare writ small) upon us? Makes no sense whatsoever. Romney is a Massachusetts politician. Too far left, and too far removed from mainstream America. He can't even muster 100 people for a book signing, with free pizza! No one trusts him.

Romney's endorsements do nothing for candidates on a national level. He endorsed Nikki Haley (R-SC) for governor in March. She trailed the other 3 candidates until Palin's endorsement 2 months later gave her a surge to the front, where she won the nomination handily despite the nasty mud throwing from the good ole boys of SC's GOP. They attacked her marriage. They attacked her Christian credentials. They attacked her for having Sikh parents. This is a taste of the dirty politics engendered by the Republican machine when it's threatened.

Romney has been silent on the Gulf Oil spill. He has been silent on the terrorist trials in NYC. He was silent on the no nukes policy.

In short, he has shown no leadership or initiative whatsoever. His flip flopping hurts his credibility, and his latest op ed has earned him a great deal of criticism because he did not have the facts to support his assertion, to his embarassment.

I'm sick and tired of these good ole boys who think it's "Romney's turn", as if some kind of rigid cursus honorum must be tread based on a person's pedigree and sex, rather than on merit and record. Romney is not a leader. He's a follower, which is apt since ironically his name is also a breed of sheep.

not a good sign

He can't even muster 100 people for a book signing, with free pizza!

Not 100 people? Not even with free pizza? That certainly doesn't sound right, or very promising. Must not have been any beer. But what can you expect from an LDS? I've even heard it's hard to find a decent cup of joe in Salt Lake.

It's very early, and who can really say? However if I had to guess, I'd suppose that Mrs. Palin will be on the ticket next go around. What any of this has to do with space travel is beyond me, but I'll take the blame for it.

to A911

Thank you for the kind words. I'm just a piker compared to many of the contributors here. I know a little bit about a few things, but for me it's a pleasure to be able to interact on an intelligent level with other serious men. I am always amazed at Tom Bertonneau's ability to synthesize these things. I always want to say, "I wished I had written that."

re: Atlanticist911

Mitt Romney is and always has been a particular favourite of mine...

My impression (just from hearing the man speak) is that Mr. Romney is very intelligent, quick of mind and wit. Probably the best of the bunch in this regard. While I'd go hunting with Mrs. Palin (have to be separate sleeping bags, though), given her demonstrated intellectual prowess, I'd not want her making state decisions on her own. Mr. Paul is also very sharp, but apart from his economic thinking (and even that is considered too "moon bat" to many) he is very far out of the mainstream.

The problem with Romney is he does have some liberal political baggage to explain away. But he is, after all, a politician, so what's the past when we have the future to look forward to?


I must correct you about Sarah Palin and her "demonstrated intellectual prowess".

Palin is not stupid, and it seems that you are simply repeating the meme the mainstream media, the leftists and the good old boys of the GOP are feeding you.

Have you read any of her op eds or her Facebook posts, in which she writes clear, concise policy statements and criticism of the current administration? Have you read her book? Have you listened to any of the substantive (and sometimes combative) interviews she has had recently with Bill O'Reilly, Chris Wallace and other pundits and journalists?

It seems that some people have lazily dismissed this woman as "stupid" because they believe some comedy skit by Saturday Night Live, have not done any real research, have not learned anything outside of the biased media, or have not actually paid any attention to what she has said or written in the past 18 months.

Palin has been right on so many issues:

1. She was correct about Obamacare and "death panels";
2. She was correct about the terrorist trials in NYC (majority of Americans oppose it);
3. She was correct about the massive
stimulus bill, calling it "generational theft";
4. She was correct about Obama's inept and slow response about the Gulf oil spill catastrophe (she was the one who asked why Obama did not meet or speak with BP's CEO over 30 days after the incident, which Obama ended up doing after her reaming him over it);
5. She was correct when she attacked Obama for his stupid no-nuke policy (again, supported by majority of Americans).

I can go on and on. But then, I'm informed. I don't parrot the leftwing media and comedy outlets; I read straight from the horse's mouth itself, and I make my own determination as to a person's value, rather than mindlessly repeat a meme.

As a woman, I am appalled by the misogynistic attitude taken by so many alleged CONSERVATIVE men regarding Sarah Palin. I do not make this charge lightly, as I think many pseudo-feminists have cried wolf too many times, but this thread (and many other conservative blogsites) have ignorant commenters making sexist remarks about Palin (they seem to focus on her breast size, her legs, her hair, her glasses, her children, etc.), yet are completely IGNORANT of what this woman has accomplished without the customary connections with powerful men (Hillary Clinton).

Palin left Alaska in the black, financially speaking. She reduced pork spending by over 70%. She successfully negotiated an international pipeline to the lower 48, a feat that has been attempted and failed by other Alaskan governors over the past 30 years. As a mayor, she reduced taxes and spending without cutting municipal services, while overseeing the doubling of the city's population.

Palin is a sound fiscal conservative with the record to prove it. She has the guts and the vision to stop this train going off the cliff and she's not afraid to shake down the establishment (of both parties) to do it. This is why they all fear her. She took on the Murkowski gang in Alaska and some of them are in the Big House wearing orange jumpsuits now.

You are underestimating this woman at your own peril. She is NOT the stupid person you think she is, and I bet you are just as ignorant and lazy-minded as those who have made the same mistake. Even some leftist journalists are changing their tune about Palin because they realize that she is far more formidable than they realized.

I dare you to open your eyes and actually do some work regarding this woman, rather than making lazy, uninformed statements about her. It's your kind of "intellectual prowess" that makes stupid errors, not hers.

Information # 2

Further to "Chinese intrigues", in recent times the Chinese have 'demonstrated' the following:

- they (their submarines) can 'surface' near (and approach) US aircraftcarrier-based battle groups undetected;

- they can destroy 'at will' US satellites in space, i.e they can 'blind' the West;

- and they can 'at will' create havoc on the internet.

The world is not, and never will be, a peaceful place of co-existence among democratic free nations. American 'liberal' leadership over the past half century has been based essentially on America's ability to project 'hard power' anywhere in the world. The current state of that leadership is being challenged by three very different 'models' (and no others): that of 'nationalistic' China, that of 'new' (energy-based) Putin-Russia, and that of Jihadism. The latter, no matter how medieval and low-tech it may appear to be to the shallow observer, should not be underestimated in terms of its impact on Western will and behavior.

To marcfrans:

Further to "Chinese intrigues", in recent times the Chinese have 'demonstrated' the following:

- they (their submarines) can 'surface' near (and approach) US aircraft carrier-based battle groups undetected;

This may be an argument against carrier battle-groups. When high speed anti-ship missiles are readily available, some possibly nuclear charged, I wonder how safe any large, lumbering surface ship is?

- they can destroy 'at will' US satellites in space, i.e they can 'blind' the West;

I do not think they are at the "at will" point yet. But it is just a matter of time.

- and they can 'at will' create havoc on the internet.

This is not anything particularly intrinsic to the Chinese. I'm sure the Russians (as many suspect) are also on this. And who can say about "our" plans in this regard?

It is difficult to know for certain the thinking of the Chinese leadership. Just 35 years ago they had no institutional means of succession. The rule of law is only beginning to be formulated, and they have many internal problems that we can hardly imagine. Historically they have not been aggressors on the world stage, but, then again, historically they have been isolated. And, it is a fact that as far as empires go, the US has its hands in more places than China could even dream. So, from the Chinese perspective, it is they who are concerned about us.

In any case, it is rather foolish for the US to rely on Chinese good will in the bond market, while at the same time wondering if they are our "friends." It would be best, it seems to me, for the US to get its economic house into shape so we will not be beholden to the Chinese, at all.

With the dollar-yuan peg perhaps decoupling, this may not be a continued issue. The peg was maintained at the cost of internal Chinese central bank inflation. Without the peg the value of the yuan will rise, leading to Chinese domestic deflation and an increase in their purchasing power. They will then begin to consume their own production, and exports to the US will slow due to further dollar depreciation relative to RMB. There may not be much sense, then, in their continued purchase of American bonds. At least that is what some argue. Whether any of this will be "helpful" to the US economy is a big question. If the Chinese refrain from purchasing bonds, then who will? The purchaser of last resort will be (it always is) the Federal Reserve. With our continued slide into Third World economic status, spending on high-tech infrastructure (such as space exploration) will likely not manifest. Dr. Bertonneau's comment: The Obama ideal is undoubtedly for the USA to be as inactive in space as, say, Kenya, while depressing, seems to pretty much sum it all up.


Marcfrans’ comment has a number of important implications. The Free World / Communist World division was not the cause of the Space Race, but it obviously accelerated the Space Race by injecting into it an element of international and ideological competition. Sputnik in 1957 badly embarrassed the Americans, who redoubled their efforts; even so, the USSR trumped the USA once again by putting Yuri Gagarin in orbit in 1961, at which point a still nationalistic USA decided that this would not happen again – and it did not. No Russian cosmonaut has been any farther from the earth than low orbit, but American astronauts walked on the moon.

The North America / China rivalry has a different character from the Free World / Communist World rivalry of the 1950s and 60s. Russian communism is dead, consigned to the dustbin of history. Meanwhile, a neo-Marxian regime, more sympathetic to the Third World than to the First World, has achieved ascendancy in the USA, where the elites for a long time have been active in stigmatizing nationalism and a sense of the USA’s European roots. This regime and its elite supporters, as I noted in my essay, are hostile to space exploration precisely because space exploration is a Western phenomenon that sets bar of objective achievement to which non-Western nations simply cannot hope to aspire. The Obama ideal is undoubtedly for the USA to be as inactive in space as, say, Kenya. China, having jettisoned Maoism, is not really in ideological competition with the USA. The competition is now mercantile. My sense of the Chinese space program is that it is a vestige of the Maoist order, with the purpose, no longer very meaningful, of showing that Communism can do whatever capitalism can do – such as placing astronauts in orbit or sending them to the moon.

One really needs the counsel of a trained Sinologist in these matters. I have read, however, of Chinese maritime explorations during the West’s Fifteenth Century, which might even have reached the Pacific coast of North America, but which were then banned by the imperial regime. That ban would be consistent with my amateur sense of China as a powerfully inward society, which is unlikely to pursue a vigorous planetary exploration program. If the Chinese thought that they could sell the moon, they might really go there. Otherwise, I expect their astronaut program to fade away.

Whereas the USA’s space program is all but dead, private space endeavors, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise, are making some headway. Branson’s fleet of suborbital passenger rocket planes will not go to the moon, but they might serve to reawaken public interest in space travel. Once celebrities have gone into orbit, other people will want to do the same thing; competitors of Virgin Galactic will appear and the race will be on to lower the price of the suborbital excursion. An orbital hotel is now not out of the question, but it will be private enterprise, not a government program.


1) Kapitein Andre is not Flemish nor Dutch, although he probably can read and understand Flemish/Dutch.  He is most likely German (by birth, if perhaps not by nationality).

2) "Chinese intrigues in space" are already a reality. The Kapitein is right that this would make a large (space) budget necessary (not "feasable").  However, that will have to wait for a very different kind of US Administration, one that would have a more realistic assessment and understanding of the threats facing the 'free world' today. A good primer on that subject can be found in Mitt Romney's recent book ("No Apology. The Case for American Greatness").

@Kapitein Andre

Speaking of the Norse voyages to Vinland, I plan to write about them soon for TBJ, as they have been on my mind for some time. One thing to be noted preliminarily about the Norse voyages to Vinland is that they were profitable. Indeed, the Vinland Sagas emphasize the commercial nature of the voyages, and the “goods” brought back from Vinland for sale in the Icelandic market (timber, animal skins, dried fish, dried berries, whale blubber). The case of Columbus is related to the Vinland lore. When Columbus was a teenager he accompanied his merchant-father on a voyage to Reykjavik and back; it seems quite likely that the navigator gleaned the idea of a land to the west from the Icelanders.

(I sometimes teach a course called “Business in Literature,” a curriculum of literary studies for business majors. The first items that I ask students to read in that course are the two Vinland Sagas.)

Clarke’s title is deliberately chosen. The phrase “The Challenge of the Spaceship” echoes Arnold Toynbee’s phrase “challenge and response,” which is central to the historian’s notion of civilizational vitality. Planetary travel represented a challenge, to which, ultimately, Western Civilization could not or would not rise. I place the emphasis on “would” not on “could.”

Kapitein Andre writes: “I disagree that the causes of NASA’s decline are cultural.” I say: Everything is cultural. Man is a cultural creature; and, like the creature himself, the culture can be healthy or sick. Ours is sick, God help us, and this is why, in Kapitein Andre’s words, “humans are a long way off from making any significant impact outside our planet.”

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the surface of the moon, sees no insurmountable technical obstacles for robust manned space exploration. Aldrin’s plan for permanent colonization of Mars by 2019 may be found at this web address:

I pose a challenge for Kapitein Andre, behind whose contrariness I detect a genuine, if rather ornery, intelligence. The challenge is based on the premise that critics of the liberal regime need to find the maximum of solidarity so as not to dissipate their energy in fractious contention and thereby give victory by forfeit to the liberal regime. Okay, then – Kapitein Andre disagrees with this or that statement of my essay but is he willing to name any statement in the same essay with which he agrees? If so, might such agreement not be the foundation of productive exchange between us, and would not productive exchange, emphasizing common commitments, be better than mere bickering?

Alternatively, might Kapitein Andre not work out his own argument concerning space travel on the same scale, and with the same attention to detail, as I have brought to bear on the subject in my essay? I could read the result even if he were to write it in Flemish although in that case I might have to read it slowly. I promise in advance not to nitpick or to gainsay in response to such an endeavor, but rather to find the shared premises in it.

Let us be collaborators in truth and effective co-warriors against liberalism rather than grimacing opponents in a beard-pulling match.

@ Dr. Bertonneau

I applaud your humanism.
God and everybody else here knows that K.A. is not my preferred commentator here, but your teacher's desire to communicate is marvellous.
Thanks again.


I must agree to a large degree with Federale.  But I would add, if we were using the Age of Exploration as any kind of blueprint, then humans are a long way off from making any significant impact outside our planet.  You will recall the fate of Norse exploration of the Americas in the 10th century, and the decline of their colonies centuries before Columbus et. al.  Moreover, it was not until the 19th century that the Americas truly began to acquire economic and political prominence or "intrinsic value" (treasure fleets notwithstanding).  Lastly, space travel is much more costly and difficult than traversing the oceans. 


I disagree that the causes of NASA's decline are cultural.  Rather, the necessity of competing militarily (i.e. ICBMs) with the Soviet Union is no longer present.  Only Chinese intrigues in space can make large budgets feasible again...

@Cogito @Federale

Responding to Cogito:

Thank you to Cogito for the precision of his critique. Oddly, when I put in the commas, as he suggests, my MS-Word program underscored the whole sentence in red, flashing a message suggesting that, as it stood, the iteration constituted a mere fragment. When I took the commas out, the program was satisfied that the iteration was a sentence and stopped bothering me. I accept that this…

The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service and the pointlessness of its destination, the International Space Station, have consigned to oblivion the memory of the actual space program, the climax of which came with the moon landings of the three years 1969 to 1972…

with commas, is a more reader-friendly version of the sentence than my comma-less original. (Best to Cogito)

Responding to Federale:

Federale writes: “I don’t think a nuclear powered craft could be build or assembled either on earth, it would then be unable to lift off, or in space, as the assembly would be too difficult.” Possibly you are right although the designers of NERVA thought of their motor as flyable. A Saturn IB rocket would have carried it to orbit.

Federale writes: “Also, there is a good chance of serious psychological incidents on such a long mission to Mars and that does not even address the issue of radiation issues in interplanetary space or the issue of bone degradation for over a year in space.” Again, you might be right. Certainly there were psychological problems, so to speak, among Columbus’ crew on his first voyage; we know that psychological problems contributed to the demise of Robert Falcon Scott in Antarctica. Breaking the psychological, as well as the technical, barriers are what pioneering in any field is about. We can only surmount the obstacles that we are willing to face. Space exploration was a way in which Western Civilization articulated itself. Now, it seems to me, there is only the disarticulation of the self-deconstructing liberal regime. (Best to Federale)

An excellent article, but I

An excellent article, but I think you give short shrift to the technical difficulties to either a space based assembly system, a long distance propulsion system, and the dangers of long-term space travel.  I don't think a nuclear powered craft could be build or assembled either on earth, it would then be unable to lift off, or in space, as the assembly would be too difficult.  Also, there is a good chance of serious pyschological incidents on such a long mission to Mars and that does not even address the issue of radiation issues in interplanetary space or the issue of bone degredation for over a year in space.  That is why I think the Space Station is a good experiment, it is gathering essential inforamtion on the spycyollogy of space travel and the health effects. 

Soccer vs Football

" History offers many examples of depraved societies pretending they are better than they really are. England, an enlightened and humane country, is perversely fascinated by stories that falsely depict its citizens as corrupt and degenerate."

Nice quote from following article:


Why don't we just let our women folk fight it out.


I suspect the Kappert Syndrome had a role in the headlines and studies cited in the above article. 


Doesn't this woman minister have a husband who could have slapped her upside the head and told her to keep quiet until after the Cup was over?

'Right to the Moon Alice!'



This essay gives me

the possibility to make a similar point as previous commentators.
F.D. Roosevelt was a cynical Macchiavellian successful president, exactly the ruthless man needed for winning WWII, aided by a driven quatuor of exceptional men like Oppenheimer, Marshall, Eisenhower and McArthur, all five of them real Americans.
Kennedy was never a favourite of mine, but he was a gifted orator AND he was a real American. He was also lucky to have a go-getter like Von Braun to create a successful moon rocket program.

Both presidents picked the best people to do the job without any political considerations.

Today Obama is incompetent, picks only political supporters without any competence considerations and wants to have a space program for people who believe the moon is white hot and will burn the astronauts( real comment from an educated Pakistani in an English newspaper article in the 1990's)

The spirit of free enterprise and freedom in general is dead in the world.

The World Cup, Outer Space, & God's Own Game

God, and the devil were having a holiday in hyper-space. The topic of conversation turned to who could turn out the best football team. Much to God's surprise the devil proposed a football match to settle their dispute.


As God was leaving he said to the devil,' Don't you realise that all the 'good' players go to heaven?"


The devil, smiling, responded "Yeah, but we've got all the referees!" 

Oh well...

It was worth the shot. Sometimes one comes up blank.

Speaking of nada, and the lack of manly discourse, any thoughts on the pros and cons of English referees?

I expected some comments on this site about a World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands with an English referee to boot, but nada :-)

Punctuation Question


What a gracious concession


Should I use an ! or ?



Has to be one of the top 10 postings ever on TBJ!



What is your first language, Polish? I grew up in a heavily Polish communinty, and married into a Polish family (linguists) and only the Poles can lose a point, a battle , a war and still look their opponent right in the eye and say,"Comma, that's all you got?"



Polish? That would have been brilliant, but it 's Dutch :-)

And in the mean time I read the article completely and you are right, this is a top posting, a very nice sad article about the decline of heraldry and the doubts that any of the remnant manly societies on Earth have what it takes to emerge as heirs and pursue.

The boredom of Space

The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service and the pointlessness of its destination the International Space Station have consigned to oblivion the memory of the actual space program

1) Given the time involved in any actual attempts at travel, real boredom will be a problem. I'm reminded of a very funny film, Dark Star, wherein crew members, after being cooped up together for god knows how long (and one even in a block of ice), obviously hate each other and spend their doomed trip fighting off fatigue, anger, and disgust. The only character that understands the irony of it all is the bomb's talking computer ("let there be light...").

2) When the space program began, we didn't have much in the way of EPA, and other non-essential regulatory agencies. Procurement was probably a hell of a lot easier, and the workers felt they had a real "mission" (to beat the Reds). Now, as you say, who cares or even knows about the latest mission? Maybe it's an experiment with ants devised by some Junior High School kid, maybe it's looking for "signs" of global warming--real thrilling stuff, no doubt.

3) Back then, astronauts were exceptional physical and mental specimens with a flair for adventure. Now, they are chosen for the right mix of diversity. I wonder if the engineers who light the shuttle's fuse are chosen the same way? If so, it's good the program is winding down before things completely deteriorate beyond repair.

4) Finally, as implied in Dr. Bertonneau's article: when the majority (or the coming majority) are on some form of earthly welfare, and when the checkbook still has some checks in it, but the account is empty, these programs will be the first to take a knee. I'm guessing that the demographics of the engineers and other technical workers responsible for the success of the program are not part of a protected class. Unless they are all Denzel Washington "Hollywood" types; men who've obtained their position due to intrinsic intellectual ability, and not due to affirmative action. Or at least that's how they're portrayed on the big screen. Not so sure about it in real life.


(10) “[A] The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service // AND // [B] the pointlessness of its destination the International Space Station” = compound subject (A + B)…

(09) “have consigned” = modal verb in third-person plural + past participle…

(08) “to oblivion” = “oblivion” means “the realm of the forgotten”…

(07) “the memory of the actual space program,” = “actual space program” refers to meaningful manned space activity, i.e., Project Apollo…

(06) “the climax of which came with the moon landings of the three years 1969 to 1972” = “of which” (relative pronoun + preposition) refers again to Project Apollo

Hence –

(05) SON: Daddy, what is the Shuttle for?
(04) DAD: Son, it’s what takes astronauts to the International Space Station.
(03) SON: But, Daddy, what’s the International Space Station for ?
(02) DAD: It gives the Shuttle a place to go.
(01) SON: Snore, snore, snore…


Best to Cogito.


Ok, it's me.

My misunderstanding was in not seeing (because English is not my native language - though my English is far from bad?) that "its destination" is "the International Space Station". If the sentence had contained two more strategic commas or two more brackets, like:

" The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service and the pointlessness of its destination, the International Space Station, have consigned to oblivion the memory of the actual space program, the climax of which came with the moon landings of the three years 1969 to 1972."


" The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service and the pointlessness of its destination (the International Space Station) have consigned to oblivion the memory of the actual space program, the climax of which came with the moon landings of the three years 1969 to 1972.",

then that might have added a tad more style, grammatically.

What a few commas (or, in general, some structure) can do!


I offer my thanks to Ribera for drawing the connection between “The Challenge of the Spaceship” and certain earlier Brussels Journal essays on Gnosticism (“Gnosticism from a Non-Voegelinian Perspective,” Parts I -IV). The emasculation of NASA, long in process and now consummated, belongs to the Gnostic war on behalf of the second reality against the first reality, or more simply to the Left’s war on reality. Few things were more real or tangible than aeronautics and astronautics. Aeronautics built lively machines like the ones celebrated in David Lean’s film of The Sound Barrier and astronautics built the giant rockets that sent men into space and finally to the moon. The most popular museum in Washington D.C. is still the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which is full of the actual, indisputable airplanes and machines that signify the West’s technical prowess more than any other manufactured object (with the possible exception of the large steam locomotive). The British equivalent would be the RAF Museum, Hendon. Even when they do not have a historical context in which to place and by which to understand the objects in these museums, the museum visitors still find them impressive and attractive. Many airplanes, as I argued in the David Lean piece, are sculpturally beautiful. From the Pomo (postmodern, left-liberal, multicultural, diversitarian) perspective, however, these items and the endeavors that they represent are profoundly disquieting. For one thing they are entirely Western endeavors with no admixture of the non-Western in their conception or execution. They establish an absolute scale of achievement. For another, they indicate the inalterability of nature. Thus no how much the Marxian philosophers philosophize it still takes X pounds of thrust to propel X pounds of payload into orbit. Finally, aerospace engineering and astronautics are high-IQ endeavors that necessarily exclude most people; they are elite activities in the most hard and implacable sense.

Quite as Ribera says, the Leftwing or Gnostic mentality sees the world that resists mere word-magic as bad, and that mentality therefore wishes to replace the actual, resistant world by the pliable second reality in which beggars ride because wishes are horses.

Grammatical dragon?

Once again, Mr. Bertonneau, voulez-vous explaindre this sentence grammatically, or is it really me?

" The boredom of the Space Shuttle in service and the pointlessness of its destination the International Space Station have consigned to oblivion the memory of the actual space program, the climax of which came with the moon landings of the three years 1969 to 1972."

I cannot knot a rope tight to this, grammatically. And it is always the same with your articles. Is it me, or is it you? Are you using grammatically superiourly built sentences, and am I the grammatical n00b, or what is going on here?



Gnosticism at work

You said "The prevailing liberal-multicultural anti-spirit stands militantly averse to anything that advantageously differentiates the West, in its historical character, from the “Non-West,” and orderly productive life from indolent resentment." It will be difficult, in my opinion, to expose the problem better than you are doing.

The trouble goes far beyond pure science. It is now obvious that political western elite has decided to destroy western civilization itself. Space conquest, one of his most tremendous achievements, has also to be destroyed, as morality, ethnicity, religion and economy of western world. And it seems it's succeeding, as the NASA will soon have no longer any mean to bring a human being to space. This is amazing if you recall the Apollo program.

But why is this happening ?

Because following gnosticism, the hidden religion of elite, every phenomenon (as human beings and their deeds) in material world is deemed bad, built by the devil (who is what Christians name 'God'). In their opinion human souls are imprisoned  in our material bodies and should liberated for merging in the "light" with other souls, in a sort of undifferentiated nirvana.
Civilization, culture, art and state are then irrecoverably bad, belonging to an universe built by evil forces.
Then no accomplishment done in this universe can have any value.

This kind of mentality is the opposite of western and christian values, and explains the weakening of the west.

About the postscript : This confirms the elite's ideology. It is not surprising they turn to Islamic world, as it has never achieved anything valuable in science, and much less in technology, since eight or ten centuries. A great example for our masters.