With a muted celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon underway across America, it’s important to remember the name of Sergei Korolev. He was the man who single-handily pushed the Soviet space program ahead of NASA until his untimely death in 1966. In the first pages of the monumentally important work Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon, we are introduced to perhaps the most haunting anecdotal what if? in human history:
One day in the early 1960s Sergei Pavlovich Korolev was looking at a newspaper photograph of Wernher von Braun, then being lionized in the United States for his part in the upcoming Apollo program. His comment, recalled Antonona Otrieshka, a staff assistant: ‘We should be friends.’ Korolev died at the height of the Cold War, in 1966, so such a meeting was not destined to occur.
On the surface the remark is astounding. But what it reveals is Korolev’s feeling of identity with von Braun’s space prowess, as well as a certain envy over attention he wasn’t enjoying himself. He, after all, was the number one Chief Designer of the Soviet space program, the head of the Council of Chief Designers, the principal architect of the spectacular Russian achievements in space which, at that time, had decisively outclassed those of the Americans. Yet no one except insiders even knew his name. Under a policy started by Stalin and continued through the reigns of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, Korolev remained officially anonymous to the outside world until his death in 1966, at the peak of his effort to beat the Americans to the Moon. The fear, apparently, was, that he might be done in by U.S. espionage agents. (p. 1)
As ‘Whitey on the Moon’: Race, Politics, and the death of the U.S. Space Program, 1958 – 1972 documents, we can no longer celebrate the achievements of early NASA, because the employees were too white. In fact, it could be argued the moon landing – 65 years after the Wright Brothers first flight in December of 1903 – was the final achievement of the historic America nation. Astonishingly, we can no longer even celebrate Wernher von Braun, because of his questionable past with the Third Reich. He was the man most responsible for landing men on the moon, but in the current year he cannot even be acknowledged. [DC news outlet apologizes for Apollo 11 story on ‘brilliant’ Nazi rocket scientist, Washington Examiner, July 17, 2019]
But what if von Braun and Korolev had met?
What if they had actually worked together on behalf of humanity to lift us to the stars?
As we near the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we find ourselves immersed in a world where “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Simply put, this ideology of the ruling elite – rapidly becoming the dominant theology of our time – requires abandoning any celebration of the past if whiteness is involved.
And the moon landing represents perhaps the finest example of human ingenuity in recorded history, and it is near as exclusively a European/white achievement as is possible.
Cue up the Russia Today to put forth an incredible essay. [Attacks on ‘white & male’ Moon landing proves no US achievement is too big for liberals to destroy, July 17, 2019]:
Attempts to diminish the triumph of Apollo 11 and to reassign credit don’t just taint the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, but presage the technological decline of the US if it persists with identity politics.
With the Founding Fathers now rarely mentioned in the media without side notes about their slave ownership, and the Betsy Ross flag is offensive to Colin Kaepernick and Nike, there is nothing new about liberal attempts to strike at the very heart of American identity.
But – leaving aside the conspiracy theorists – the moment Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969 was objectively such a universal milestone that to qualify it seems a fight against human endeavor itself.
It would seem like the more logical route, for those who resent that this was a feat of white un-woke America, would be to try and diminish their role in favour of supposedly unsung heroes.
Hidden Figures, the Oscar-winning film from 2016 was the perfect archetype of this revisionist history, exaggerating and fictionalizing the role of a cadre of politically suitable black women, who did an entirely replaceable job and were no more important than thousands of others involved.
This way everyone would get to celebrate their own role models, even though in time such worthy changes of focus can end up with grotesque urban myths, like Crick and Watson stealing the Nobel Prize from (the actually dead) Rosalind Franklin.
Celebrating white men in the age of Trump
But while this unifying narrative, where people of different races and varying attainments are placed alongside each other in anniversary pieces, a more sour, radicalized note has begun to surface, compared to celebrations even five years ago, in the prelapsarian era of Barack Obama.
It is not yet dominant, but persistent enough to be more than a coincidence.
“The culture that put men on the moon was intense, fun, family-unfriendly, and mostly white and male,” tweeted the Washington Post, over a behind-the-scenes look at the life of those involved in the program.
“In archival Apollo 11 photos and footage, it’s a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ exercise to spot a woman or person of color,” it continued in the article itself.
“We chose to go to the moon. Or at least, some did: watching [documentary film] Apollo 11, it is impossible not to observe that nearly every face you see is white and male,” left-wing magazine New Statesman wrote in a recent piece.
A recent Guardian review of the documentary Armstrong features the writer talking about “good ol’ boys from NASA – elderly white men every one of them, who you suspect are still pining for the days of American life when men were men and women waited by the phone in headscarves,” though no evidence is given for the assertion.
Why wasn’t von Braun a black woman?
This is not just bigoted, but astonishing in its unfairness.
Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins could not have helped being white at birth.
George Mueller and Max Faget were not proverbial “mediocre white men” – their deeds are tangible.
No one at NASA could have helped living in 1960s America, or made its social structures, workplace roles, and demographics fit in with 2019 journalists’ conceptions. For God’s sake, many were Germans who had served the Nazi Party with varying degrees of reluctance during World War II, before being whisked away through Operation Paperclip – how do they fit into 21st century privilege hierarchies? Could Wernher von Braun have been an African-American woman from Louisiana?
Or would it have been better to stay on Earth until US society advanced enough to send the right people into space? Or perhaps let the Soviets get there first, since for all their class-based ideology they didn’t want to handicap themselves in the space race.
America weighs itself down
And handicap becomes the key word.
Rewriting history is a crucial weapon in the long-term culture war for the left, disappointed so often at the ballot box. But the implications of this go far beyond the past.
At the very edge of technological and scientific progress is a meritocracy – you can’t make someone a genius by appointing them. And for all the social changes, the key innovators at NASA and, more importantly, Silicon Valley, remain men, and predominantly white (though more often Asian). Whether it is more due to their superior opportunities, education or creativity, Elon Musk or Larry Page look just like the fathers of the space program.
Yet to avoid ever producing a picture like the sea of white shirts and black ties and pale arms at Launch Operations Center fifty years ago, there are demands for rectification, for diversity, essentially for positive discrimination.
Celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 2019 is akin to a reunification of the primary directive of modern Americans: “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.”
Which is why we must consider the ultimate what if? in our time: what if von Braun and Korolev had met?
What could they have accomplished together?
Fifty years from July 20, 2019, what will Americans celebrate when it comes to the 100th anniversary of the initial moon landing? Without any change in the political landscape, the acceleration of an overt anti-white agenda will be unstoppable by that point, with demographic change ensuring whites are a powerless minority. Will Hidden Figures be shown as official historical records?
Forget Korolev and what he helped cultivate within the Soviet space program, but will the name von Braun be allowed to even be uttered?