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 RIP Neil Armstrong

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nordmann
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PostSubject: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 10:31

The term "role model" is one that is much bandied about these days, the inference being that just about any person whose public profile is raised above the mundane automatically becomes a potential model to be emulated by those judged to be below them, especially those of tender age. However it is a concept I have never been entirely comfortable with. Emulation of a so-called role model can take many forms, the vast majority of cases appearing to indicate little more than a propensity to mimic visual or other idiosyncratic features of the model concerned, and all too often ones which have been artificially concocted just to achieve this very effect.

For me, and I assume for many others too, this banal use of the term is revealed as such through the simple process of consciously comparing and analysing those people who, through one's own formative years, actually did contribute to and influence the formation of the person one later became. If one is thorough and honest in this exercise then one is left with an almost inescapable conclusion that the greatest role models in an individual's life will almost certainly have been people who were close to one when growing up, be it proximity through family connection, friendship, acquaintanceship or, in rarer circumstances, an intimacy assumed on one's own part with someone which actually relied on close observation more than contact, and was motivated by some sense of admiration.

It is this latter propensity to consciously select role models for oneself which is exploited, corrupted and engineered by others to present total strangers to the individual as potential sources of emulation, and not often for any noble reason. With age however comes a degree of self-knowledge and cynicsm, and inevitably therefore the occasion to re-examine those thus presented to one in the past and, as is often the case, to dismiss or relegate the actual influence they could have had on one's own development. We might still have some nostalgic regard for them, or even a sense of shame that we regarded them ever in such a light, but both are part of a realistic assessment of our own individual character and of who really contributed to its formation. In that process the few, actual role models emerge from the chaff.

For me, one such role model has been - and continues to be - Neil Armstrong.

As a child his attraction to me in that role was easy to understand. Brought up on a diet of fictional action heroes, an ethos in which scientific knowledge and development would be the catalyst for the human race achieving all that is noblest about it (and in my own lifetime), and the belief that individuals could - through intent or happenstance - change the course of history for everyone through one achievement, Neil Armstrong scored on every count. His tentative step from the bottom rung of the LEM onto the powdery lunar surface - even as I sleepily watched it happen in grainy images late at night, live on our battered old TV - seared itself into the core of my being as a seminal point in my young life. One of those moments which not only would form an indelible memory in my own personal history, but one which would become a reference point from which almost every other aspect to my character from that moment on could be calculated, compared and linked. At that moment Neil Armstrong became a part of me, and a very intrisic part too.

But that is not where Armstrong's role ended, and it is this which truly elevates him for me from the ranks of the other heroes of my youth, even those whose behaviour also pressed all the same buttons in demanding my young respect, if not quite on so wondrous a scale in terms of personal achievement. It was Armstrong's subsequent demeanour and behaviour which I now know was that which has most served as a model for me throughout life.

True modesty is a quality so rare that we often settle for its false equivalent in others as evidence of good character in the realistic, if pessimistic, belief that in the absence of the real thing the debased version is better than nothing. Armstrong however was a truly modest man, all the more remarkably so given that which he had to be modest about. True stoicism, the ability to handle all circumstances thrust upon one - from the greatest success to the most cruel misfortune - with cool reason and equanimity, is also so rare that its practitioners form an elite historical group united over distance and time by our recognition of this one unique quality. Neil Armstrong is in that select group. True humility, not one self consciously engineered to encourage others to like you or - worse - to backhandedly invite others to praise your achievements through your pointed downplaying of them, is also a rare human trait and almost non-existent a trait amongst those who circumstances have elevated to widespread recognition in their lifetimes. Armstrong, despite global recognition and the knowledge that his name would live on long after his own time, was a truly humble man.

I was privileged to attend a lecture and interview session with Neil Armstrong six years ago in which he spoke eloquently and factually about his contribution to the Apollo space programme, as well as his subsequent career. The final question was one which elicited an answer that summed up for me all that I have tried to explain above, and why for me this man will to my own dying day remain a personal hero - probably the only true personal hero left from my once impressive childhood collection. The interviewer wished to know how Armstrong, at the height of the razzamatazz in the immediate aftermath of Apollo 11's return to earth, maintained his obvious composure and did not succumb to the traps of global adulation which were so often the fate of some of his colleagues. His answer, delivered with a credibly real puzzlement that the question should in fact have been asked at all given what he had said over two hours or so regarding his life's course, was succinct. "Then, as now, and when I walked on the moon - in fact in no matter what I've done with myself over the years - I have always known one thing. If it hadn't been me then some other guy would have done it."
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 11:56

While absolutely concurring with everything above, I wonder, would it be possible for anyone who achieved something of such global significance and interest today be able to comport themselves in the same way? In this world now, with the demand for instant communication to allow the public to feel some kind of imagined personal intimacy with the subject and the media's insatiable desire for 'newsworthy' detail and 'human interest', not to mention the manipulation by PR staff and the transmission of gossip and invention on-line, can we ever have another true hero? Somehow I feel that we were able to know the real Armstrong better because he wasn't subject to the pressures he would have been under today, he was able to continue being himself in a way that may no longer be possible.

Would 'One small step' still resonate had it been a tweet?

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 12:12

On the contray - Armstrong was very much subject to those pressures, and for many years was resented in the media for not playing ball. A huge part of my admiration for the man resides in his comportment when subjected to quite hideous and sustained character assassination from certain influential quarters. If you remember the hyperbole surrounding Apollo 11 you will also remember that it contained a huge element of intrusion into the personal lives of the astronauts and their families, a trend which had been encouraged politically from the inception of the Mercury programme and which reached a crescendo at the time of the moon landing. The machinery of hype might have been different, but the media-invented expectation that we all "know" these people intimately and demand ever more detail was phenomenal at the time.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 12:16

In your second-to-last paragraph, Nordmann, I could have substituted Sir Edmund Hillary and it would have read just as truly, which I suppose is why he commanded such hugh respect in NZ. (But I don't think he was a role model of mine, since his achievements are so far from anything I ever do as to make this an impossibility.)

I don't at all like the way role model is used nowadays. It seems to mean that any young man, of not much more than 20 years of age, is supposed to behave in a manner that not only is not typical of young people, but also not of achievers. Any hi-jinx deviation from perfection seems to be condemned, not because it is wrong, but because it might be copied, and doesn't show a good 'role model'. The only way some of these boys manage this is to be mollycoddled by management and sheltered from real life. And then there is a big fuss when the ones with alcohol problems break lose and get into trouble.

"Some other guy" might have done it, but not apparently "some other gal", since I learnt at Leicester Space Museum that women coped with the tests and trials they ran better than men, but naturally couldn't be considered for such an important role.

I suppose my main role model as a child was my grandmother - though I might be putting that honour onto her in hindsight more than at the time. I don't think we were a family very aware of the outside world and we didn't have a television. You'd hardly think of Vera Lynn as a role model, would you? Or Gina Lollobrigida, who seemed to me to have very admirable looks.

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 12:26

Yes, it is the use of the word "role" which obfuscates both the term's meaning and its application.

We have discarded use of the word "paragon" in recent times, a term once used to convey the same meaning and with much more exactitude. It was derived from "paragone", an early Italian/late Latin expression indicating a touchstone used to identify precious metals. It is this sense of a person possessing qualities to which we would benefit from comparing our own which has been so terribly and sadly jettisoned in our culture. The notion now that a "paragon" of anything represents an impossible ideal and therefore impossible to emulate opens the door to simple mimicry of so-called role models instead. A touchstone for excellence represented by an individual who we have been privileged to know, however distantly, is a far better analogy.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 12:51

I must read the wrong papers since, although I recall pictures of Armstrong's family, the rest that you mention must have passed me by, apart from the political dimension of course. Perhaps I was so caught up in the science that I missed the other stuff.
I still think that there was then a possibility of refusing to cooperate with the hype in a way that would not exist, nor be allowed, today.

Am I terribly cynical to think that, nowadays, the definition of the 'right stuff' might include a greater degree of media savvy? That it might indeed have been 'some other guy' and one who had demonstrated more willingness to engage with the demands of celebrity?

On the radio yesterday I heard an interview with a woman from Langholm who met him when he visited there and expressed, in a delightfully down to earth way, just what you said.

I don't think I've ever had a hero: some people I've admired for some ability or achievement but not that I've felt I wanted to emulate some quality they exhibited. Not consciously at least. Once again, does this say something about me? Do I feel I can't improve on what I am? Oh dear!

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 15:14

I was in between six form and University when Neil Armstrong took his small step and in fact in GMT it was on my 18th birthday. At that time, I suspect along with many others, I would have expected that by now we would have had a permanent base on the moon and mankind having reached at least Mars. In 2001 a Space Odyssey the Journey was to the moons of Jupiter. And yet 43 years after Armstrong, no one has visited the moon for 40 years and it is not clear when, if ever, mankind will reach Mars or develop a permanent moon base.

Was it all worthwhile?
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 15:58

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
.... And yet 43 years after Armstrong, no one has visited the moon for 40 years and it is not clear when, if ever, mankind will reach Mars or develop a permanent moon base.

Was it all worthwhile?

IMHO Yes is was very much worthwhile. But times change and the science of interplanetary exploration has actually progressed. It is now much easier, cheaper and safer to send a robot to explore extra terrestrial bodies, and with far, far better results. Neil Armstrong spent just three hours on the moon's surface - the current Mars Rover will remain operational on that planet doing very sophisticated science, for well over a year and travel further across the surface than ever the Apollo missions could on the moon. It is always an emotive issue to be able to put a man "on the spot", and it was certainly a valuable and humbling experience for all mankind to get a simple man's experience of being there. But frankly modern sophisticated robots are much better at the job. And that is in no way to diminish what Armstrong and the the whole Apollo programme achieved... they showed what could be done (and done with fairly basic technology compared to today) and that was a vitally important step.

I am sure we will revisit the Moon someday but for now I feel the Apollo legacy lives on in the pioneering spirit of all the current space exploration projects.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 16:20

Quote :
But frankly modern sophisticated robots are much better at the job.

In some respects yes. It's certainly safer, we have a much better understanding of the dangers inherent in even a successful return journey of the length of a Mars flight and a stay on the surface, and definitely cheaper which is an overweening factor these days, but at the present level of development a robot can't have the flexibility or autonomy to do what a human can: to have the autonomous initiative to make those decisions and leaps of imaginative thought that pay real dividends.

'Curiosity' is a huge leap forward and thrilling to those who have an interest, I certainly am trying to follow it on the NASA website, but to engage the widest public and so generate the pressure for the funding of further exploration, it needs the human factor, I fear.



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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Sun 26 Aug 2012, 23:22

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I still think that there was then a possibility of refusing to cooperate with the hype in a way that would not exist, nor be allowed, today.

I don't think I've ever had a hero: some people I've admired for some ability or achievement but not that I've felt I wanted to emulate some quality they exhibited. Not consciously at least. Once again, does this say something about me? Do I feel I can't improve on what I am? Oh dear!

His biographer, interviewed on Radio NZ this morning, seemed to agree that it would have been harder to avoid celebrity status today, though he did say there was a great deal of pressure in those days too, and mentioned that Armstrong resigned his position to take up a teaching one when all the hand-shaking of important people got too irritating.

I don't easily think of anyone I wanted to emulate, either, ferval, but I don't think that means you don't accept the possibility of improvement, rather just an acceptance of who and what you are. (Though I do recall imaginery scenarios that would have brought my mother back to life - it had awkward consequences in that I would have had to go through my early schooling with a draconian teacher. I didn't seem to have the imagination to find a story that would allow a mother but not a teacher.)

I didn't at all like as a child the thought that I was a copy of anyone. I recall speaking rather sharply to my aunt once when she complained of my tidying and said I was just like my grandmother. I objected for two reasons, I think - one that I didn't like people I loved being criticised at all, and the other that I didn't accept that any characteristics I had were learnt or inherited from others. I was ME.

Although I do think that exploration of space and of the beginnings of the world are important in that they should presumably lead to knowledge with greatly useful applications which we perhaps have no idea of yet, I still do wonder if the huge sums of money spent might be more usefully put towards developing better health outcomes or something more obviously practical. Hopefully both can be achieved.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 00:57

The other thing is - do you think perhaps boys generally have a tendency to admire men and their activities more than girls admire women's activities. Things should have changed but I recall as a child feeling rather disparaging of women's work and their values of cleanliness and tidiness and health concerns. (Grandmothers were an improvement on mothers because they didn't concern themselves with children wearing raincoats or even shoes in the rain. I might have been extrapolating from the particular to the general.)

But it seems to me that young boys do seem to want to look up to people more than young girls do, and I put that down to a greater love of 'doing' things, adventure, risk, etc.

Cheers, Caro.

PS I see today on our news site that Snooki has had a baby - I raise my eyebrows at this and wonder who on earth Snooki could be that her (his?) baby is important enough to be news.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 07:33

@Caro wrote:

Although I do think that exploration of space and of the beginnings of the world are important in that they should presumably lead to knowledge with greatly useful applications which we perhaps have no idea of yet, I still do wonder if the huge sums of money spent might be more usefully put towards developing better health outcomes or something more obviously practical. Hopefully both can be achieved.

Yes, all those billions spent - and have we actually learnt anything much? Has mankind - or womankind - made any significant great leap forward? Poverty, sickness, human misery - did the moonwalk help eliminate any of these things? But then, as someone is supposed to have once remarked, the poor are always with us, as are the elderly, the terminally ill and the terminally messed up.

And speaking of the latter, the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, has spoken movingly of how, having lived the little boy's very worthy dream of being a spaceman, he fell back to earth, hit the bottle and sank into what he calls the "blue funk" of depression. In his book, "Magnificent Desolation", Aldrin removes the space helmet and reveals the human face, speaking of the need for humility before the gods and of the "melancholy of things done". He writes of how - after the triumph of 1969 - he would sit for hours in front of the TV watching the same news over and over again, and he describes with great honesty his anguish and his insomnia: "I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up late every night ... emotionally I felt like a mass of tangled wires inside..."

For Aldrin, as for many human beings, the "Also sprach Zarathustra" theme proved to be the Portsmouth Sinfonia version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpJ6anurfuw

And so here we are - another English August Bank Holiday, last day of our holidays; it's raining hard and I've just read that Israel is poised to atttack Iran. And re your Snooki, Caro - well I hope she and her baby do well. Here in England the Daily Mail (you can't beat it for insane female trivia) would be commenting on her "baby weight". We read daily of celebrity girls who are anxious lest the world perceive them as too fat or too thin, either before, during or after the conception of their children.

I had several heroines when I was young - Shirley Williams and Margot Fonteyn were two - rather an odd combination, I suppose. I'm not sure who I would choose were I young today. I shall have to think about that one.

PS Good article in the Telegraph - "The Pull of the Moon", but I've lost the link. Will post it in a minute.

PPS A lion has escaped from Colchester Zoo and has just been sighted near Clacton. Members of the public have been warned not to approach the animal.


Last edited by Temperance on Mon 27 Aug 2012, 08:12; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 07:35

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 09:50

I don't regret nor resent one penny of those billions Temp, I wish more were being spent on something that furthers what is to me the quintessential human characteristic, curiosity, the lust for knowing what should not be known. Despite our sometimes protestations that our interest in the past has some function and our debates on what is the study of History for, it's ultimately the same thing - or should be - the seeking of knowledge for its own sake without thought of any utilitarian outcome. When we stop wanting to know what is out there, or in there, or was then, we might as well pack it in and just read about Snooki and her baby. Who the hell is Snooki anyway?


It's not a holiday here but it's raining anyway.

Good luck to the lion, may it enjoy its taste of freedom.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 10:27

@ferval wrote:
I don't regret nor resent one penny of those billions Temp, I wish more were being spent on something that furthers what is to me the quintessential human characteristic, curiosity, the lust for knowing what should not be known.

Good luck to the lion, may it enjoy its taste of freedom.

Gizza bite of that apple, ferval - it looks nice. (It does, actually.)

Re lion - yes, I thought that too. The Daily Mail - unbelievably - is asking for snaps of him. The headline is "Do you have pictures of the lion? Email them to pictures@dailymail.co.uk "



Actually the whole article is very funny - talk about TOWIE. I particularly like the comments: "It's a f**king lion!" and "Family playing backgammon in front room heard a very loud roar." He's been spotted "ambling laconically" through a field apparently, which is rather a pleasing image.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2193984/Essex-lion-30-police-officers-crack-marksmen-helicopters-join-search.html

Apologies - I am very much off topic.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 10:59

I'm not a great fan of apples so it's a fig, much more fun. Do have a bite if you wish.

Google has told me who Snooki is but I'm still no wiser, there's a whole world out there that passes me by completely.

Sorry, even further off topic now.


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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 12:13

Neil Armstrong may not have held strong views on Snookis or phantom lions in Essex but he did have a rather strong retort for those who asked him if he thought the Apollo programme had been "worthwhile".

For Armstrong the value of the mission lay primarily in its capacity to inspire further generations to actively seek knowledge, and initially its worth in that regard seemed incontestable. Over time however, for reasons which Armstrong averred were almost criminally narrow-minded, this legacy was bankrupted and a vital asset was squandered. The fact that the anticipated level of exploration was not maintained is held up as proof by some that the expectation was based on an over-valued exercise. Armstrong stressed that the opposite was true. Subsequent generations were cheated of the legacy they were owed from such a valuable exercise in the name of misguided parsimony.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 12:31

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 12:48

It’s all very well to argue was it worth the billions spent… until recently when asked what benefits have we ever got out of the space program the average man on the street would reply after giving careful consideration… Teflon, i.e. non-stick frying pans and Velcro…

Now consider the everyday commodities we use and think nothing of… all the electronic gadgetry, and it’s worth taking a little time over this, as I think since Neil stepped on the moon there’s been more forgotten than most can remember… without doubt in my mind this world for good or bad would not be the same had the space program not happened. One can only wonder what more may have been achieved had it progressed at the rate originally expected… perhaps even down to saying… ‘where we’re going, we don’t need roads’.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 13:05

Armstrong, in his talk that I attended, actually mentioned Velcro and Teflon. Both were invented in Switzerland (in the 1940s and 30s respectively) so were never "spin-off" products from the space programme. He used them as good examples of how little the average person really knew about the true history of the space programme, despite the huge media focus on its achievements during the 1960s and early 70s - his point being that people shouldn't form an opinion about the value of the space programme one way or the other until they at least had checked the data first.

Interestingly there was one actual spin-off which we will never see. In designing the fold-up antennae which are now standardly deployed on satellite and probe hardware NASA came up with a weave pattern for stretch nylon which doesn't run. It was offered to the nylon stocking manufacturers who all politely declined to develop it further. Nylons that don't run would be bad for business!
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 13:12

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 13:16

How interesting that the two examples I mentioned, and only because they have been oft quoted, turn out to be fake claims then… typical. I personally didn’t know. But it does reiterate the point I was trying to make… be interesting for some of them to be listed, or to raise awareness of the riches that the space program has given us if it were written on the packaging… as it does when there’s a warning that a packet of peanuts may contain nut products…
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 13:18

opps... thanks trice... crossed post i think.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 14:02

@nordmann wrote:
- his point being that people shouldn't form an opinion about the value of the space programme one way or the other until they at least had checked the data first.

And that is undeniably fair comment.


nordman wrote:


Interestingly there was one actual spin-off which we will never see. In designing the fold-up antennae which are now standardly deployed on satellite and probe hardware NASA came up with a weave pattern for stretch nylon which doesn't run. It was offered to the nylon stocking manufacturers who all politely declined to develop it further. Nylons that don't run would be bad for business!

Nobody wears "nylons" anymore - it's all black opaque Wolford (or cheaper versions) tights these days - I have no idea whether the yarn that this hosiery is made from is a nylon derivative or not - but the tights (if treated with reasonable care) never snag or run, so perhaps we do have the space race to thank for them. They are definitely not *woolly* tights. Opaques are more expensive than ordinary tights - well worth it though.

Marks and Spencer's "nude" tights - more suitable for the summer - are now advertised as being made from a yarn that is not only run-resistant, but which also has "cooling" properties for the skin. I wonder (seriously) if this is another spin-off from the space programme.

The comment about China is chilling. But competitions for earthly glory - especially those involving huge power blocs - are perhaps best kept terrestrial - in swimming pools and on running tracks.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 14:42

Reading the obituaries and op ed pieces in the papers today, I found one fact that surprised me: Armstrong named his farm 'Rivendell' and the suggestion is that the 'one small step' speech had its genesis in a quote from 'The Hobbit', "Not a great leap for a man but a leap in the dark".
It's probably my stupidly stereotypical view of an astronaut, engineer and test pilot that makes this somehow surprising but it's also revealing about the man's hinterland and how much of himself he was able to keep private.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 14:51

@normanhurst wrote:
It’s all very well to argue was it worth the billions spent…

Billions indeed but not really all that excessive when you consider that we could put 14 Mars Curiosity Rovers onto the planet for the cost of the 2012 London Olympics. (Mars Rover cost $1 billion : Olympics $14 billion/£9 billion).
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 15:19

The entire Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programmes could be started from scratch ten times over and they still wouldn't have cost what the US has spent in its Iraq escapade, even allowing for inflation in the interim.

When it comes to whether it was worth it or not, I prefer to reverse the question somewhat and ask; if we discovered now that for the last 40 years or so we had the technology to land someone on the moon and get them back but had just never bothered to do it, what would it say about us as a species? I'm not sure it's one I'd like to belong to much.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 15:39

Which is just another of the irritating things about meerkats apart from the annoying insurance adverts… they could use their intelligence to run the banks and dominate the world economy… they just choose not to.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 15:56

@nordmann wrote:
The entire Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programmes could be started from scratch ten times over and they still wouldn't have cost what the US has spent in its Iraq escapade, even allowing for inflation in the interim.

When it comes to whether it was worth it or not, I prefer to reverse the question somewhat and ask; if we discovered now that for the last 40 years or so we had the technology to land someone on the moon and get them back but had just never bothered to do it, what would it say about us as a species? I'm not sure it's one I'd like to belong to much.

The lastest figures I could find for the cost to the US for their machinations in Iraq and Afganistan were an astounding 6 trillion dollars. It has been said that this is the sort of sum that needs to be spent NOW just to stop global warming getting completely out of hand. But the political will seems to be lacking here too ... Now what does that say about us as a species?

EDIT : The 6 trillion dollars is the figure quoted by critics of the US involvement, official figures are lower.... but still amount to a colossal sum of money.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 17:58

That's the crux of one argument that I use whenever someone is moaning about the cost of the space programme, CERN or whatever; the money saved by closing these would not be spent on ending poverty or eradicating malaria, it would go on something far less worthy. The terribly sad thing is, whatever government money is ploughed into these projects it is usually spent in the hope of developing weapons systems, boosting national ego and beating some other crowd with the same miserable aims.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 19:08

@ferval wrote:
The terribly sad thing is, whatever government money is ploughed into these projects it is usually spent in the hope of developing weapons systems, boosting national ego and beating some other crowd with the same miserable aims.

Sadly, I have to agree with that, ferval. Says a lot about us as a species, doesn't it?

"Men! The only animal in the world to fear." And, at times, to despair of.

PS I have to admit that I was pretty shocked at the £9 billion figure MM quoted for the Olympics - is that accurate? No doubt it is. And as to the trillions spent on the oil wars...

Meanwhile we try make ourselves feel better by giving those Christian Aid Christmas card/present things - you know, £20 buys a goat for someone in Africa, or £15 buys him a can of worms for his land. If we're feeling really generous we club together and buy a whole cow. I wonder what the combined US and Chinese defence budgets could do (plus my Winter Fuel Allowance and what I waste on posh tights etc.)?

I really will shut up now - this is all too depressing.

PPS Armstrong's use of the quotation from The Hobbit was interesting.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 21:00

@Temperance wrote:
I have to admit that I was pretty shocked at the £9 billion figure MM quoted for the Olympics - is that accurate? No doubt it is. And as to the trillions spent on the oil wars....

I took that £9billion direct from the BBC's website quoting government sources. It is in so-called short billions ie £1000,000,000s (rather than the more expensive long ones that weigh in at £1,000,000,000,000). Similarly my quoted figure of $ 6 trillion is in thousand billions and not million billions - but either way it's still an awful lot of money (ie $6,000,000,000,000). Even the US government openly estimates that it currently costs a cool $ 1 million to keep just one soldier on deployment in Afganistan for a year. Just think what one could do with that sort of money (and remember that is just for one soldier for only one year).

No, all the money spent on Gemini, Mercury, Apollo, .... the Mars Rovers etc... was money well spent, and not just money, well, err, spent.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 21:53

I couldn't believe parsimonious NZ would be spending a million pounds per soldier in Afghanistan and so it proves. The figures from the Defence people are a little hard to quite understand, but we are budgeting NZ$32 this year (seems to be down a bit - the last 5 years has cost $185 million - perhaps that's because they will be withdrawn within the year).

We have 149 in Afghanistan (does that count the 5 dead this fortnight, do you think?). TheNZ Defence site talks of 343 personnel deployed on 14 operations in 12 countries, then names ten of them including Antartica with 0 personnel. But then is says there's another 553 on other overseas deployments. Why are they separate? And what does one person do in Iraq?

Here is what they say:
There are currently 343 New Zealand Defence Force personnel deployed on 14 operations and UN missions across 12 countries, including:

Afghanistan (149 personnel)
Antarctica (0 personnel)
Indian Ocean (3 personnel)
Iraq (1 person)
Korea (3 personnel)
Middle East (13 personnel)
Sinai (28 personnel)
Solomon Islands (43 personnel)
Sudan (3 personnel)
Timor-Leste (79 personnel)

There are 553 Defence Force personnel on other overseas deployments and exercises.

The American form of billions seems to be the accepted one now, isn't it? One you get up to trillions I don't bother much about how many noughts that involves.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 22:29

The Apollo Moon programme cost $25billion in the money of the time, about $200billion in today's money I would guess. The Current US defence budget is more like a trillion dollars pa but that does not in itself demonstrate that the money spent on Apollo was well spent.

I certainly enjoyed the London Olympics far more than I enjoyed watching Armstrong step out on the moon.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 22:45

Oh Tim, I despair.

Is this not reward enough for the money spent?.

The 'Pale Blue Spot' image taken from Voyager at a distance of 4 billion miles.

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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 23:16

Thanks for posting that Ferval - in humility I can say nothing more.

(Money very well spent I say).
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 23:19

I'm not sure "enjoy" is quite accurate a term for me either regarding my reaction on witnessing the first step on the moon. There was a profundity to the experience which time has not diminished for me, a far more transcendental quality than simple euphoria, or a sense of shared pride, or indeed wonder could provide in themselves.

I have enjoyed watching sporting events on TV too, and sometimes they too can infuse one with a greater euphoria than the word "enjoy" conveys. But then, that's sport, not being privileged to witness humanity take its first tentative step onto another celestial body. How that can be trumped by someone winning the 5,000 metres defeats me, I'm afraid.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 23:46

I recall the build up to the moon landing listening to reports on a long wave ships radio… I was skimming across the waves, looking forwards to taking my first steps on Malta in time to see it having come from the Greek islands where there was no chance of seeing it on a TV… the world waited with baited breath… millions glued to TV sets around the world but I missed it and to this day I have never seen it. I thought it was absolutely marvellous, still do, and one day I will see it. Now days people don’t even turn the TV channel to watch a space launch… in fact it hardly makes news. The world has changed, people have different values… and they have become accustomed to the benefits the space program brought us.

Had the money not been spent on space research… do you really think it would have served a better purpose… building schools, hospitals etc, the usual criteria when criticised for huge spending, or funding weapons research and foreign wars, and of course huge fat cat backhanders. Wherever there’s huge honey pot, there’s always a cloud of bee’s stuffing their pockets full.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Mon 27 Aug 2012, 23:57

My memory has always been that I listened to this on the radio in my room by myself at my university hostel. But why wouldn't I have been watching it on television and with other people? I think our hostel had TV, and even if it didn't, the student union did. I thought perhaps the time didn't fit, but see it was 2.56 GMT, which I take to be around 3am in Britain, and therefore 3pm NZ time. I wonder which of my memories has gone wrong there. Unless 2.56 GMT means the afternoon and it was the middle of the night here.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 00:24

No, it was the middle of the night here and we had dragged the TV into the bedroom with a portable aerial and stuck it up on the dressing table. We had to keep fiddling with it to get a decent picture and prodding each other to stay awake but it was unmissable and unforgettable.
I'd listened to 'Journey into Space' as a wee girl and been an avid reader of Patrick Moore's books so I was captivated, it felt like the beginning of a huge adventure, as it was but a rather different one than I imagined then.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 00:51

The guy whose yacht I was working on wasn’t even aware of what was going on. Not surprising really as he was so far up his own backside… we went to one of the top restaurants on Malta, I was to stand in my uniform at the side of the table… at first I had a terrible idea he wanted me to taste his food… but it was just to impress the other diners. He went into a rage… his arms flapping like hairy pelican but he demanded I fetch the maître d'hôtel and the hotel manager… and why… well there was no Lea & Perrins original recipe‎ Worcestershire sauce available to him. And me, why I just wanted a big hole to open up in the floor and swallow me up.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 08:42

Hi Ferval

I have no problem with Voyager, which was after all not manned. Having done a year of astronomy as part of my first combined science degree I did not need a photo of earth from deep space to realise how small we are in the universe. That the majority here seemed to consider the money spent on the Apollo programme was well spent does not demonstrate that it was well spent.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 09:02

Hi Tim… I guess what it does do is demonstrate that there is a difference of opinion, and I would imagine you have a different opinion yet you say no more… why not share it.

I suppose it must be pointed out that the cost of the American space race rides very closely on the back of the Nazi Von Braun and all his evil works. A genius, but an evil Nazi all the same.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 09:25

nordmann

"I have enjoyed watching sporting events on TV too, and sometimes they too can infuse one with a greater euphoria than the word "enjoy" conveys. But then, that's sport, not being privileged to witness humanity take its first tentative step onto another celestial body. How that can be trumped by someone winning the 5,000 metres defeats me, I'm afraid."

The comparison had been made between the cost of the London Olympics and the Apollo programme, hence my comment. I cannot actually remember exactly how I felt at the time when Armstrong stepped out except a slight pleasure that it coincided with my 18th birthday (not as important then as now as one 'came of age' at 21). I am just old enough to be able to remember all the early steps in space exploration starting with Sputnic 1. That was not necessarily greeted with great enthusiasm in the west. I also visited as a kid in the early 1960s an exhibition put on by the USSR in London which I think included the Vostok 1.

I am far more awe inspired by looking at at the stars at night, or at least I am when I get a chance to view them away from the light population of where I live. Armstrong I witnessed on TV whereas the London Olympics I witnessed, or at least some of it, by being there.

Around the time of the manned space programme there was quite a debate concerning whether or not the manned space programme was a waste of money. It seems to me that, given the failure of the programme of manned exploration to proceed since the end of the Apollo programme, 3 missions were cancelled and ideas of a mission to Mars were shelved, that most of the more concrete arguments of the supporters of the manned missions have failed to materialise.

I would presume that Armstrong along with Gagarin will be the two names most remembered from the manned space programme. At least people continue to go into space like Gagarin. When I saw Armstrong step out on the moon in 1969, I never would have guessed that no one would have landed on the moon, or elsewhere, for the last 40 years.

regards

Tim


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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 10:25

There's two arguments here: one is that the unmanned program can by its very feasibility collect data that we cannot presently do by a manned program, the other is that, as a species, we engage with and are inspired by the achievements of another human being. Aren't both valid be it in different ways?
The Curiosity mission is a breathtaking scientific and technological feat but it figured quite low down in the news. The first man on Mars will be broadcast live to the planet. As those with an interest in History, we recognise the enormous power of symbolism and the iconic figure, these inspire and motivate in a way no piece of technology can even though that device or machine may change our lives profoundly. Even the machines that are remembered are somehow anthropologised, Beagle for example, and the Voyager probes which I can't think of without a rush of, admittedly romantic, empathy, away out there in the interstellar dark.

At least the debris that we are leaving out there will provide much to interest future archaeologists.
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PostSubject: Re: RIP Neil Armstrong   Tue 28 Aug 2012, 10:26

If this comes about,nobody will be going anywhere;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome
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