A lot of dust is kicking up around a movie due out in October, “First Man,” about astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Some have said the movie is “anti-American” and does a “disservice” to the country because it fails to include a scene depicting astronauts planting the American flag on the surface of the moon.
Armstrong’s sons have weighed in, so has the author of the book on which the movie is based, the actor who plays Armstrong, and even Buzz Aldrin.
It was a significant moment in American history, no doubt, but whether the movie is, as one critic called it, “a pernicious falsification of history,” we’ll wait and see. Truthfully, the whole thing seems like a tempest in a teacup, and let’s at least hold off on critiquing this movie until we can watch it.
In the meantime, let’s focus on the thing that is the bigger disservice to America — our failure to build on everything that was accomplished during the heady days of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.
Next year will mark 50 years since Armstrong and Aldrin first set foot and flag on the moon, and it was only three years later — 1972 — that the last Americans left.
Closing that half-century gap and going deeper into space — Mars? — requires leadership and vision from the Trump administration and Congress.
Just a year ago, Vice President Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and challenged Americans to resume their place as a leader in space exploration.
“Let us do what our nation has always done since its very founding and beyond: We’ve pushed the boundaries on frontiers, not just of territory, but of knowledge. We’ve blazed new trails, and we’ve astonished the world as we’ve boldly grasped our future without fear,” Pence said. “We will put American boots on the face of Mars.”
There have been many other milestones and accomplishments since Apollo: The 135 shuttle missions, the Hubble Space Telescope, the arrival on Mars of Curiosity and other surface rovers, private ventures now pushing into space, and, more recently, the attempt to land a spacecraft on and return from an asteroid.
But those surviving shuttles are now museum pieces, and most of those other successes were or are unmanned, and for all the good they can do and all the knowledge they provide, nothing accomplished in space since Apollo has come as close to lifting the nation’s spirits and rallying the country.
Toward the end of his life, Armstrong feared that the United States was losing interest in space. Not long before he died, he told a congressional committee that the nation’s leading role in space “once lost, is nearly impossible to regain.”
A giant step backward, for mankind.
If we want to truly honor the flag, let’s take the lead as a spacefaring nation again. Let’s return to the moon, and replace the flags there that have probably long since been destroyed with new ones.
Then let’s plant one on Mars.
Editorial by The Joplin (Mo.) Globe