Adulation for Today's Space Race is Misplaced. So is Nostalgia for the First OneNews at Home
tags: NASA, Apollo program, Great Society, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Lyndon Johnson, Space Race, space
Catherine Devlin is a senior at Boston University. She was the lead researcher for the 2020 NBC documentary Sky Blossom and is a senior editor for the Boston Political Review.
“Dude space is freaking awesome!” Jeff Bezos (played by Owen Wilson) drawled in a recent Saturday Night Live skit. The comedy sketch, which parodied Bezos’ July trip to space, also featured comical portrayals of Virgin Group founder and fellow space traveler Richard Branson and Tesla CEO and commercial space flight developer Elon Musk. SNL dismissed these three men’s celestial competition as a “midlife crisis of cosmic proportions.”
And the show is not alone. The billionaire space race has been met with a storm of criticism. But some maintain the benefits of making space an arena of competition for the mega-rich. After all, the 1960’s space race spurred the economy, inspired STEM education, and is remembered as one of the United States’ crowning achievements. But this gets the history wrong. During the Cold War space race, the United States government ignored the wishes of the American people, as well as domestic racial and social issues, in its quest for political supremacy.
At the time, the now-lauded Cold War space race raised the same question confronting modern-day billionaires: who asked for this and what are the benefits? Then, and now, the lunar race was about the triumph of capitalism.
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