Monday, August 3, 2009

The Space Race and Russia: a History of Undisclosed Failures


My favorite songwriter from the University of (Leftist) Leeds has graced us with an engaging and newsworthy article worthy of a Pulitzer. Englishman Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey writes on the recent fortieth anniversary (July 19th) of the American landing on the Moon and its miniscule impact in comparison to Russia’s longstanding and venerable record. He writes that Russia’s reputation has suffered an international smear campaign, referencing the ‘defeat’ of the USSR’s space program as nonsensical.

How can the Soviet program have been defeated when the United States currently relies on Russian space vehicles for entry into space? And who will continue to bring people and cargo to the ISS after 2010? Bancroft-Hinchey may not be a Russian, but he understands a historical Russian pretext: that Mother Russia endured Mongol invasions for two centuries so Western Europe could flourish and develop faster than their eastern brethren. The same concept continues to be applied today. How can NASA survive in space unless Russia assists it?

Russia has clearly bore the brunt of space endeavors. As if every Soviet accomplishment in space needs to be noted, Pravda’s star writer writes a litany of firsts. These include the launching of the first satellite (Sputnik, 1957), the first animal in space (Laika, 1957), the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin, 1961), the first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova, 1963), and the first space station (Salyut, 1971). These were indeed firsts for humankind. However, Russia’s historical record is riddled with inaccuracies and little-known details that are best left unmentioned in Russia’s textbooks.

Sputnik might not have left ‘the American people so psychologically vulnerable’, as Eisenhower put it, if they knew the circumstances around its construction. Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, American engineers, had supplied the Soviets with military secrets for years before they defected to the Soviet Union in 1950. The information they provided helped construct the first artificial satellite and build a new arena for the Soviets to prove that they plainly did not have an inferiority complex. Additionally, Laika the dog, the first animal in space, did not survive in space for nearly two weeks, but was dead on arrival.

The permanent member of Pravda’s editorial staff tactlessly suggests that the United States engineered the Moon landing. While Bancroft-Hinchey’s claim is laughable, it is nevertheless hackneyed, having been postulated many times before. American conspiracy theorists, probably at the insistence of a Soviet active measures campaign, continue to doubt the lunar landing. Never mind the fact that there were five consecutive landings after this one. However, this conspiracy ranks alongside some of the more unusual (proven) Soviet insults, including the U.S. military invented the AIDS virus to infect Third World countries and American parents adopt foreign children to harvest their ‘baby parts.’ Bancroft-Hinchey serves two purposes in life: to promulgate Russian propaganda and continue to excuse past grievances against the noble Soviet Union. If Pravda and The X-Files had an illegitimate child, he would be that unfortunate offspring striving to work farther from the truth.

Space exploration in the 21st century is a microcosm for its quarry: vast and empty. With President Obama’s ambiguous stance on space, the future of NASA is unknown. The Constellation program and its new launch vehicle and spacecraft (Orion) might not go into effect for years now and space funding may be significantly slashed. The American people will have to wait until a solidified plan is implemented, if at all. Meanwhile, Russia maintains that she has no intentions of a lunar mission with Mars shining brighter. Indeed, we can all assume that in the post-Soviet age, Mars just might be that better shade of propaganda-red for Russia to pursue.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

A classic example of Soviet propaganda was the well-concealed fact that the first cosmonauts did not come back with their capsules, but had to bail out in the upper atmosphere and parachute back to earth. With that in mind, America captures a key first: the first nation to design a space vehicle which can land.