up, Up, and Awayrnby Bill KauffmanrnSpace and the AmericanrnImaginationrnby Howard E. McCurdyrnWashington, D.C.:rnSmithsonian Institution Press;rn416 pp., $29.95rnIn a recent PBS documentary aboutrnthe exploration of Mars, a NASA scientistrnlectured, “We are, after all, onernplanet…. Once we get ofFour planet, especiallyrnonce there’s a colony on anotherrnplanet, national boundaries start to becomernreally insignificant. . . . The NewrnWorld Order isn’t going to be Americarniiber alles, it’s going to be Earth iiberrnalles; it’s going to be an order where nationsrndon’t mean anything any more andrnwhat means something is what planetrnyou’re from.”rnSo this is the future: the faceless billionsrnof the third planet chanting “Earth!rnEarth! Earth!” as the T ‘ screen revealsrnMars being bombarded by nuclear missilesrnlike so many Comet Shoemaker-rnLevys, and all because a Martian strongman/rnfugitive warlord/cult leader gotrncheeky with the bosses. In the backgroundrnwe hear Lee Greenwood croaking,rn”I’m proud to be an earthling . . . “rnHoward E. McCurdy, a political scientistrnfascinated by “the relationship betweenrnimagination and public policy,”rnhas written a lively accoimt of the “concertedrneffort by writers of popular sciencernand science fiction, along with otherrnopinion leaders, to prepare the public forrnwhat they hoped would be the inevitablernconquest of space.” This effort wasrnmarked in its incipience by an innocentrnexuberance, by romantic appeals to thernimperative of exploration: the frontierrnmyth was written across the sky. Whenrnstarry eyes failed to open the exchequer,rnthe proselytizers of spacefaring, from thern”handsome and charismatic” Wernerrnvon Braun on down, resorted to ColdrnWar scare-mongering. Works of imaginationrn—novels, films, the space art ofrnChesley Bonestell —made Americans receptivernto what became an enormous (ifrnuncharacteristically sexy) public-worksrnproject. (Just as the terrific film ApollornJ 3 —”astronaut” Tom Hanks aside;rnWhoopi Goldberg would have beenrnmore believable —was intended to renewrnpublic enthusiasm for NASA.)rnThe early pioneers of rocketry—KonstantinrnTsiolkovski, Hermann Oberth,rnRobert Goddard—were inspired by JulesrnVerne to find a more plausible way ofrnhurtling men moonward than the cannonrnused in Verne’s From the Earth tornthe Moon. The visions of these men, inrnturn, inspired the rocket societies of thernprewar era, which consisted of “Germanrnexpatriates and science fiction fans.”rnVon Braun and the popular science writerrnWilly Ley gave the American rocketeersrna distinctly Teutonic accent.rnSpace-flight advocacy has always beenrnthe realm of exiles, emigres, and misfitsrn—the unmoored.rnThe “advocates of space explorationrnfaced a daundng task,” writes McCurdy.rn”They had to find a group of people willingrnto finance their schemes.” Since billionairerneccentrics who bankroll dreamsrnexist only in science-fiction novels, “sensiblernadvocates recognized the need forrngovernment support.” Yet as R.C. Truax,rncommander of the Navy Bureau ofrnAeronaufics and Space, told a 1954 symposium,rn”There is simpl)’ no overwhelmingrnrational reason why we should try tornset up a station in space, send a rocket tornthe moon, or take any other steps alongrnthe road towards interplanetary flight.”rnPresident Eisenhower agreed. His “parsimony,”rnMcCurdy argues, was rooted inrnhis mild skepticism about the military-industrialrncomplex that soon would swallowrnwhole the Vernian dreams of bugeyedrnearthlings. And besides, Ike wasrnbusy with his own massive public-worksrnproject, the tellurian Interstate HighwayrnSystem.rnFear trumps romance any old day.rnNeil Armstrong took his small step becausernenough politicians agreed withrnSenator Lyndon Johnson, who said inrn1958: “Control of space means control ofrnthe world. . . . Whoever gains that ultimaternposition gains control, total control,rnover the earth, for purposes of tyranny orrnfor the service of freedom.”rn”Public fears played a critical role inrnunleashing the billions of dollars necessaryrnto begin the conquest of space,”rnwrites McCurd’. Wliile Ike left to playrngolf the week of the SPUTNIK I launch.rnCold War liberal Senator Scoop Jacksonrncalled it “a week of shame and danger.”rnSpace boosters eagerly “tied their ambitionsrnto popular fears about the nuclearrnage.” Earth’s natural satellite was presented,rnabsurdly, as an outpost of militaryrnsignificance; Mars had taken up residencernon the moon. As one hawk advisedrnin Collier’s: “Control of the moonrn. . . could mean military control of ourrnwhole portion of the solar system.”rnIn the movie Destiriation Moonrn(1950), a general explains, “The firstrncountry that can use the moon for thernlaunching of missiles will control thernearth. That, gentiemen, is the most importantrnmilitary fact of our century.” Sorry,rngeneral. McCurdy notes, “In retrospect,rnfew of the early warnings about thernmilitary significance of space turned outrnto be true.”rnNevertheless, the fright worked. Thernspace program was as criticism-proof asrnthe Interstate Highway System had been.rnCongressional dissent was barely audible;rnLBJ had seen that “conservativernDemocratic senators, particularly thosernfrom the South, could be motivated tornvote for a large government presence inrnspace as a matter of national security.”rnBetween 1960 and 1965, NASA’s budgetrnincreased tenfold. Eventually, severalrnmen bounded around on the moon. IfrnNASA gets its way, tens of billions of dollarsrnfrom now a few government employeesrnwill wind up on Mars.rnYet the collapse of the Soviet Unionrnleft NASA in search of a bogeyman tornjustify its budgets. The unknown asteroidrnflying toward earth, signifying destruction,rnwas one candidate; the laternCarl Sagan defined our choice as one betweenrn”spaceflight and extinction.” Butrnthat danger seemed too remote, and havingrnseen When Worlds Collide, we knewrnwho would get flie seats on the first shiprnout of here: models, politicians, and scientists.rnMore recenfly, the search for extraterrestrialrnlife has become NASA’s favoriterntalking point. (Despite Sagan’srnoft-stirring magniloquence, the agencyrnremains firmly embedded within thernmilitary-industrial complex. The currentrnNASA chief, Dan Goldin, managedrnthe construction of spy satellites forrnTRW.)rnNo offense to Tang or Gus Grissom,rnbut public opinion polls never revealedrnoverwhelming support for the space program.rnIn I960, a majority of Americansrnopposed the American invasion of thernmoon. Last summer, at the height of thernMars Sojourner hype, Americans by a 49-rn45 percent margin believed the probe tornbe a waste of money.rnDoubters are accused of possessingrnmean, crabbed souls, of lacking even thern38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn