Thursday, November 21, 2013

Can a President be Punk?

It's unusual, but I think even a U.S. President can be a punk, a person with the drive to say, "screw the system, let's do something crazy just because it's impossible. "

In September 1962, John Kennedy stood in Rice stadium and delivered his famous "Man on the Moon" speech. A lot of people have no idea how crazy that speech was--considering that we have been to the moon several times, we have an orbiting space station and George Bush talked about sending people to Mars not too long ago, it's not really that bizarre these days. However, we no longer have an active space exploration program that involves sending humans beyond Earth orbit, so the idea of going to the moon, even today, is worth raising an eyebrow and a sarcastic, "really?"

In 1962, the idea was worth jumping off your La-Z-Boy, spilling your TV dinner on the dog while screaming, "what is this boy smoking?" Seriously, why would we go to the moon? It's just hanging up there in the sky. It doesn't even have air and hardly any gravity. What's the point?

Imagine facing that kind of reaction to the idea of lunar exploration.

Imagine trying to launch a 100,000 pound vehicle into space carrying three people that will hit a moving target 8 days later and still be able to return those people back to earth alive. What you have to work with is the computing power of a pocket calculator (not the scientific kind, just the basic math kind) in a package the size of a room (no monitor attached to it), some highly explosive devices designed to rapidly propel deadly stuff across continents and drop it on your enemies, plenty of pencils and paper, radio transmitters that require a wall outlet or a huge battery pack, all the paper maps you care to re-fold, and some crazy test pilots willing to die trying to get the job done.

Would you even think of asking people to do this? Would you make a speech in front of thousands of strangers telling them you're going to spend their tax dollars doing this?

A punk would.

Read more about the punk aesthetic of the 1960s in my Transistorpunk community on Google+.

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