No, this is not a reference to the report that terrorists are now planning to board planes with surgically-implanted bombs — although we can talk about that if you’d like.
I was just facetiously invoking Tom Wolfe’s characterization of the hysteria in this country when Sputnik went up. I don’t think any politician actually said “the Soviets would send up space platforms from which they could drop nuclear bombs at will, like rocks from a highway overpass,” but I enjoyed Wolfe’s hyperbolic description of the concerns of House Speaker John McCormack.
Anyway, I thought of that when I realized that the Russians are about to have the monopoly on space travel:
The last U.S. space shuttle is scheduled to blast off Friday. After that, the U.S. and other nations will rely on vintage Russian spacecraft to ferry their astronauts to the $100 billion station. Russia will hold a monopoly over manned spaceflight, and tensions already are rising. The Russians are in the process of nearly tripling the cost of using their Soyuz crew capsules for transport to the orbiting base, and other countries have little choice but to pay up.
“We are not in a very comfortable situation, and when I say uncomfortable, that is a euphemism,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency, one of five international agencies that jointly manage the orbiting laboratory. “We made a collective mistake.”
While there is less chance today of our going to sleep “by the light of a communist moon” (as LBJ warned), I still find this development disturbing.
I miss the halcyon days when this country did exciting stuff in space (and the Shuttle, essentially a space bus driving around the block, never quite qualified). I’m ready for Mars.