The Apollo 11 moonshot and militarism

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There has been a great deal of publicity for the recent 40th anniversary of the American Apollo 11 moon landing of July 1969, plenty of “one small step(s)” and so on - although some of the astronauts’ original quotes from Genesis and other books of the Bible have all but disappeared. There’s no doubt that this was a major achievement of technology and collective work and that individual bravery was involved. It was a testament to the productive capacity of capitalism but not to its development. On the contrary it shows its nature where production, where all its major achievements, are essentially geared more and more for war and destruction rather than the advancement of humanity as a whole.

The whole propaganda campaign around space exploration shows the capacity of capitalism to distort real human aspirations, to take those real feelings of the challenge and adventure of space, feelings that undoubtedly will be of interest in a communist society, and use them as a cloak for imperialism. The pictures from the 1969 mission of the Blue Planet in the darkness of space can only inspire wonder and curiosity. By the way, let’s make it clear at the beginning that we don’t think that the moon shot was a stunt or a conspiracy, nor do we subscribe to the view that the moon is in fact an orbiting space station (neither that it’s made of green cheese!). This definitely happened and it happened for the very material reasons of imperialism imposed on the nations involved as the Cold War became entrenched.

The military campaign for what Donald Rumsfeld came to call ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ began in the 1950s with the Eisenhower administration as tensions between the United States and Russia, between eastern and western blocs increased. At the end of World War II, Britain, Russia and America were all trying to ‘repatriate’ German rocket scientists. But the Americans had already spirited out of Germany Wernher von Braun, the brilliant physicist and aeronautic engineer, along with high ranking Nazi war criminals and senior scientists in order to boost its rocket technology (von Braun, as a good Nazi, criticised the US administration and its military organisation for its “inefficiency”!)

The 1957 launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite, apart from its propaganda value, gave a further impulse to the arms race through the development of ballistics technology. As important as orbiting satellites are for the militarisation of space, it was the technology of the launcher, the R-7 Semyorka rocket, which immediately threatened the United States. The election of John F. Kennedy, who promised in his 1960 campaign to improve US missiles against Russia, brought a further impulse to the development of inter-continental ballistic missiles that continued for years in order to close the so-called missile gap. Kennedy wrapped this advance of the space/military programme up in his carefully crafted persona and sold it on as a dream of mankind. There was nothing peaceful and unifying for mankind in this. In fact it meant the development of the division of the world and the advanced militarism to back it up, posing further threats to the existence of life on the planet.

Imperialist rivalries in space today

Eisenhower’s ‘peaceful purposes’ for space exploration were also echoed by Kennedy in the US’s drive for the militarisation of space, which now includes references to ‘national security’ and threatens to become offensive. With the rise of Chinese imperialism and its military expansion into space, the US has responded: “We are going to have to have the capability to take things out of orbit... And we’d better not be second” (USAF General Michael Ryan, Reuters, 2 August 2001). As the Bush administration’s review of National Space Policy said in 2000: “The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. interests.” The Cheney/Rumsfeld et al Project for the New American Century, which is more or less still US foreign policy with some refinements, essentially made the development of the militarisation of space (“... akin to Britain’s dominance of the oceans in the 19th century”) a priority within the Bush administration – the main lines of which Obama seems set to continue.

Rumsfeld warned of a ‘new Pearl Harbor’ in space, and, in a major report to the National Space Council, 11 January 2001, which outlined the necessity to confront China in space. On 11 January 2007 (no coincidence in the date) China destroyed one of its own satellites 537 miles above the Earth. It represented a major escalation of the space/arms race. China has threatened to respond to US interference in its militarisation of space and both it and Russia will not stand by while the US ‘weaponises’ space. While space is militarised, it is not yet weaponised, ie, there are no weapons-firing systems on satellites at the moment (as far as we know). But the technology already in place has significant military value and the US Treasury has recently handed over $200 billion to develop a war capacity based on wireless and internet technology, none of which are possible without secure access to and control of space. There are also developments of kinetic and anti-satellite high energy laser technologies, high velocity weapons and other such weaponry, that are precursors to space-based armaments that could be used to strike targets on Earth. 

The Obama administration has already expressed the need for the continuation and strengthening of the USA’s control of the military use of space. He is going to review the National and Aeronautical Space Council, for “Foreign and national security consideration”, according to a former science advisor to President Clinton, in continuity with the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon and Bush administrations. The aim appears to be to break down the residual barriers between civilian and military space, merging NASA with the Pentagon; and we can expect the latter to exert its weight over the former, though NASA has already had continuous links with the military.

China, India, Japan have all launched space satellites essentially for their own imperialist interests. Behind the European Space Agency’s adventures we see the usual five dogs fighting in a sack as their own imperialist interests and rivalries prevail in space as well as here on Earth. Meanwhile, tensions and developments between the two major elements here, China and the USA mount, and capitalism turns the ‘dream of mankind into a ‘giant leap’ towards a nightmare.

Baboon 6/8/9


 

Comments

NASA merging into the

NASA merging into the Pentagon? Well, the civilian side of the spacecraft industry is going to be handled by the private sector now. Just consider SpaceShipOne and Anousheh Ansari.

NASA--an extension of the US Air Force

NASA has always been a military satellite launching service attached primarily to the US Air Force. Private civilian space exploration is something that's been talked about for more than ten years now at least and little has happened. All things "private sector" require private capital, and a decent return on investment in order to attract the capital. Goddard the rocket scientist couldn't get US capitalists to invest in any research on space exploration because it was unprofitable and irrelevant to them. The space shuttle was never anything more than a sattelite launching vehicle. It was officially said that it was supposed to be basically a dump truck that would go back and forth from a US space station that was never built. The NASA plans for a space station were just a front for what was at root a military satellite launching program that took off in the 80s.

Exciting Times

Well, it would be foolish to deny the connections between NASA and the American military. On the other hand, if NASA is purely military, then why would Russia, whose elite see their nation as America's rival, work with NASA on the international space station and on astronaut transport?
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Now about civilian spacecraft. First of all, humanity has been earthbound for what? A million years? So even the most prosperous utopia wouldn't launch civilian spacecraft tomorrow, even if such a place existed! But Virgin Galactic already has celebrities and other millionaires signed up.
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Now revolutionary communists may well object to small fortunes being spent on the pleasure of millionaires. But in this case, such money would undoubtedly form the capital by which spacefaring technology can start to transport the common man into space. Or alternately allow capital to exploit the vast resources of space at an affordable cost rather than plunder the earth. So a frivolous pleasure for the wealthy may help, may even save humanity! Contemplate the irony!

You're not really posing the

You're not really posing the antics of Richard Branson against the development of the militarisation of space are you Hidden Author? Of course there are links between the private and military sector over space technology (it was ever thus) and this is one of the areas that the Obama administration want to tighten further to the needs of the military. The "common man into space", "capital (exploiting) the vast resources of space at an affordable cost rather than plunder the earth" - you could be asked what planet are you living on?
As to Russia working with NASA, the whole history of imperialism shows that in many circumstances imperialist rivals "work" in various ways with their competitors. A recent example has been the "joint manoeuvres" undertaken by the Russian and Chinese armies.

Let's not exaggerate here.

I'm not denying that the military is a BIG player in space technology. What I'm saying is that the further absorption of NASA into the military makes sense because a private industry is emerging in space technology.
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Now such an industry will not appear tomorrow. There will be a timetable no doubt. 5-10 years before the rich get their space tourism. 20-40 years before the prices become accessible to the middle class. 40-60 years before spacefaring occurs on mass scale.
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Truly we live in exciting times. Let's just hope that the world doesn't collapse in the meantime!

The Augustine review into US

The Augustine review into US space projects, commissioned by President Obama, has just been released. I haven't read it but the indications are it will give an extension to space shuttle programme for a further five years. The options given in the Augustine review look like being how the US will use manned space craft for its military capabilities. Manned flights can be useful for military purposes though I read a while ago that the astronauts were mostly unaware of the purposes of the technologies that they were carrying. Also, manned space flights are extremely expensive and dangerous. It is possible that the private sector could provide some service here - SpaceX and the Orbital Sciences Corporation have been mentioned. But their possible involvement looks years away. On the other hand, there's nothing stopping the private sector being in bed with the military. It's one of the developments of decadent capitalism. In Britain, BAe, a major component of the war economy, is in the private sector. Blackwater was a private sector company.