Ed Driscoll

A Great Future Behind Us

I posted this at Instapundit, where I’ve been sitting in recently, but I think it’s worth sharing here as well. Earlier this week there I linked to a series of Seagram’s ads that ran right around the conclusion of World War II and were titled, perhaps portentously for a series of ads merely hawking blended Canadian whiskey, “The Men Who Planned Beyond Tomorrow.”

But as I wrote in my Insta-post, sadly, the tomorrow those ads promised us is now in the past, as Bill Whittle further explores in a heartbreaking, yet must-watch video, which begins with the final victory lap of the Space Shuttle, followed by a beaming Wernher von Braun standing next to the first stage of the Saturn V, his mightiest invention.

“Oh, that? Just some stuff I built,” as the meme making the rounds goes. Bill then mentions Boeing’s enormous late 1960s SST design, which would have dwarfed the Concorde (which also isn’t available for passenger service these days). When the Boeing project was cancelled in the early 1970s, Whittle says in the video:

I remember my dad telling me, “Once you stop going forward, you start going backwards.” I was ten or 11, but this made me worry, because it made my dad worry. But that was it though, wasn’t it? We walked on the Moon, we lost our way home the day after.

In 2010, British academic Bruce Charlton posited, “I suspect that human capability reached its peak or plateau around 1965-75 – at the time of the Apollo moon landings – and has been declining ever since:”

This may sound bizarre or just plain false, but the argument is simple. That landing of men on the moon and bringing them back alive was the supreme achievement of human capability, the most difficult problem ever solved by humans. 40 years ago we could do it – repeatedly – but since then we have not been to the moon, and I suggest the real reason we have not been to the moon since 1972 is that we cannot any longer do it. Humans have lost the capability.

Of course, the standard line is that humans stopped going to the moon only because we no longer wanted to go to the moon, or could not afford to, or something…– but I am suggesting that all this is BS, merely excuses for not doing something which we cannot do.

It is as if an eighty year old ex-professional-cyclist was to claim that the reason he had stopped competing in the Tour de France was that he had now had found better ways to spend his time and money. It may be true; but does not disguise the fact that an 80 year old could not compete in international cycling races even if he wanted to.

Is he right? Well, as Whittle notes, compared with the aerospace engineering of the 1960s, these days, we should all be worried that we’re going backwards – or at the very least just technologically spinning our wheels.