*Apollo in the Age of Aquarius*

by on January 30, 2017 at 12:51 am in Books, History, Political Science, Science, Travel | Permalink

I very much enjoyed this book.  Think of it as a substance-rich, original on every page exploration of how the space program interacted with the environmental movement, and also with the peace and “Whole Earth” movements of the 1960s.  Most of all it is a social history of technology.  If I heard only that description I might think this is a mood-affiliated load of recycled crud, but in fact it is the best non-research-related book I’ve read in the last month.  Here is one excerpt:

“There is the problem of designing and fitting a spacesuit to accommodate their particular biological needs and functions,” explained one NASA official during the fall of 1960.  The Apollo spacesuit, added another spokesperson more than a decade later, “would be damaging to the soft structures of the feminine body.”  There was also the issue of bodily waste.  By the mid-1960s the space agency had already spent millions of dollars developing a urinary collection device that slid over each crewman’s penis, but the female anatomy, NASA administrators claimed, presented additional engineering difficulties in the weightlessness of space.  “There was no way to manage women’s waste,” argued NASA’s Director of Life Sciences, David Winter. “If you can’t handle a basic physiological need like that, you can’t go anywhere.”  The national media became obsessed with this particular issue, publicizing NASA administrators’ concerns to the broader American public.

Recommended, pre-order it here.

1 TGGP January 30, 2017 at 1:02 am

In terms of folk songs with the last of those astronauts in the title, I still prefer Jethro Tull’s “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2GTNhmPbtg

2 Gabe Harris January 30, 2017 at 9:55 am

A safe voyage 180,000 miles away from planet Earth in the early 1970’s….and over the past 45 years there has not been a single human who has gone more than 500 hundred miles from planet Earth. Amazing that no one else has tried it.

3 Jay January 30, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Not really, it was enormously expensive, so why do it again? There’s no upside (what, that we “still got it”?), only enormous downsides.

4 Gabe Harris January 30, 2017 at 7:49 pm

Depends on who “we” is. If some government types thought it was hugely important to show how great America was then I think some other government int he world would want to show they are also capable fo going more than 500 miles into space. Like maybe Singapore, China, North Korea, Russia. Modern day Sudan has more technology than 1968 America…seems somebody would want to show how awesome they are.

5 The US has machines on Mars January 30, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Nowadays, launching humans into space to do something a robot could do at a lower cost is just going to make that country look dumb.

Now if one country were to take the lead in say eradicating malaria, then yeah, that would show how great it was.

6 So Much For Subtlety January 30, 2017 at 5:02 am

Ground control to Major Tom? Open the pod bay doors HAL?

Somethings are ungrokable.

7 rayward January 30, 2017 at 7:10 am

With the ignoramus at the helm, Cowen’s longing for a simpler time, a more certain time, a time that no longer exists, is understandable. Of course, the irony is that is what the ignoramus promised. Nostalgia: it’s not just for the simple minded anymore.

8 Rich Berger January 30, 2017 at 7:29 am

I don’t recall any such obsession in the 1960s and 1970s, and I was enthralled with the space program at the time. Sounds like a projection of today’s lleftist tropes on the that (relatively) uninhibited time. Better Byrds – CTA 102 and Mr. Spaceman. Or Holy Modal Rounders Mr. Spaceman.

9 londenio January 30, 2017 at 7:31 am

Is that because they wanted to recycle the urine? What is the problem with a diaper, for men and women. Or is that the punchline like in the case of the pen that could write in space: “the Soviets just used a diaper” (pencil).

10 Boris_Badenoff January 30, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Jethro Tull did a song about Collins’ lonely hours alone orbiting the moon, when he could not know if the Eagle would be able to return (there having been no way to really test it in live conditions). With due reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey, then a recent movie. https://youtu.be/eG5zRt-sNWE

Lyrics:

Watery eyes of the last sighing seconds,
Blue reflections mute and dim
Beckon tearful child of wonder
To repentance of the sin.
And the blind and lusty lovers
Of the great eternal lie
Go on believing nothing
Since something has to die.
And the ape’s curiosity
Money power wins,
And the yellow soft mountains move under him.

I’m with you L.E.M.
Though it’s a shame that it had to be you.
The mother ship is just a blip
From your trip made for two.
I’m with you boys, so please employ just a little extra care.
It’s on my mind I’m left behind
When I should have been there.
Walking with you.

And the limp face hungry viewers
Fight to fasten with their eyes
Like the man hung from the trapeze
Whose fall will satisfy.
And congratulate each other
On their rare and wondrous deed

That their begrudged money bought
To sow the monkey’s seed.
And the yellow soft mountains
They grow very still
Witness as intrusion the humanoid thrill.

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