Communion Of Dreams


“The Right Stuff”, indeed.
April 13, 2007, 11:29 am
Filed under: Buzz Aldrin, General Musings, movies, NASA, Predictions, Science Fiction, Space, tech

I recently came across this old (going on 5 years now) vid of Buzz Aldrin popping Bart Sibrel (a proponent of theory that the lunar landings were a hoax) in the mouth when the guy confronts him:

I grew up with the “Space Race”, and it helped to shape a lot of my attitudes and thoughts about not just science fiction, but about life. The men (unfortunately, the mindset of the time meant that astronauts were all men) who were in that program accepted that it was a very risky thing to want to go into space, but thought that the risks were worth it. Sure, NASA was working to limit the dangers, but it was just a given that the dangers would always be there.

That was a different era. From my perspective now, it was not unlike adolescence, when you *think* you can understand the risks you’re taking in doing stupid and dangerous things, but you don’t really – your brain hasn’t matured sufficiently, and you don’t have enough experience to know just how crazy you’re being. But when you have a couple of close calls – or lose some friends and loved ones – your perspective changes, and you want to take a safer path. We call it maturity in an individual, and prudence in the space program.

But I fear that it has become just timidness, and is the reason why we haven’t continued to build on our early successes (and failures) in our efforts to explore our solar system.

There is a natural, and understandable, reaction to facing death and injury (of every sort, from physical to emotional to financial): you seek safety. You try and arrange your life to be less dangerous, to be more predictable. Or at least that’s how most people react. And really, it is not a bad thing, for a person or for a society, to take that course.

But sometimes it works out that an individual, or a society, will have an incentive to continue the risk-taking. In the ‘history’ of Communion, I have the real exploitation of space being spurred by disaster – initially, it is by the Israeli effort to establish a viable sanctuary on the Moon using conventional heavy-lift rockets after a devastating nuclear exchange. This is undertaken even in the face of huge risks (the tech is only where we’re at now – meaning that rockets, with crew and passengers, are lost perhaps 5-10% of the time), because it is felt that these risks outweigh those of staying on Earth.

Humans are complex. We don’t always respond to stimuli in ways which are predictable by a simple formula. Sometimes, the calculation of risk goes all wonky. Sometimes we factor in so many variables that we ourselves don’t even understand our decisions. And sometimes, we just plain make mistakes. As a fiction author, I love that – it gives plenty of latitude in plotting and character.

Buzz Aldrin would probably say in retrospect that the risks he took to go to the Moon were well worth it, that he and the other astronauts knew well the dangers they faced, and that they didn’t change when confronted with death and loss. Rather, they did what they could to correct the problems that they encountered, adjusted and went on…knowing that there were many other risks still facing them.

That he didn’t allow those adjustments to make him timid is clear in his reaction to Sibrel. Sure, there are other ways of dealing with an idiot who is harrassing you, particularly when you’re a 72 year-old man. Some of them are arguably better ways. But it gives me a certain smile every time I think about that incident to know that “The Right Stuff” hasn’t completely disappeared.

Jim Downey


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi, I just finished reading your book, and I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed it. I wish you all the best in your efforts to get it published. I read A LOT of books, and honestly some of the stuff that is published is complete crap. Best of luck and thanks for a good read!

Comment by Erin

Hey, thanks, Erin! I appreciate the feedback and encouragement!

Jim Downey

Comment by Communion of Dreams




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