The question of what happened to NASA after the moon landing comes up often, especially in the relatively recent context of the closure of the shuttle program and the privatization of space. This book, Whitey On the Moon, attempts to answer that by going through the historical record.
Kersey’s style is that of a newspaper reporter’s, and most of the book is made up of excerpts of old reports from newspapers and magazines.
The answer is that the agency was a persistent target of civil rights activism from the very beginning. Apparently, even President Kennedy attempted to smooth the way for a black pilot named Ed Dwight to join the moon landing mission despite a lack of qualifications, with the motive being to sway the black community and solidify their loyalty to the Democratic party.
The only reason why the pilot didn’t make it was the president’s personal pet project, and when he died, Chuck Yeager, who was running the astronaut program, was allowed to wash him out. You may be familiar with the rest of Yeager’s story from Tom Wolfe’s book on the topic.
When the moon launch actually happened, civil rights protesters picketed it, appearing in mule-drawn carts, as a way to showcase their displeasure with the ways that the public funds were being allocated.
By the early 1970s, public opinion had re-oriented against the space agency, arguing that it in particular needed to have greater racial and gender diversity, but also that the money spent on ‘moon shots’ would be better off spent on domestic welfare. By 1976, NASA had instituted an entirely new method for selecting astronauts to ensure greater representation, on threat from a lawsuit ginned up by the black lady from Star Trek.
Not so oddly enough, this was a similar time period during which power was beginning to transition to Silicon Valley, and its unprincipled exceptions of filtering employees by proxy IQ tests. Microsoft was founded in 1975, at the same time as the capable were being told they were no longer wanted in the government. The Yeager type of person would not be winding up in government after those new policies.
The reason why this story doesn’t get told too often should be clear: after the calls for increased diversity, NASA built useless shuttles full of unqualified astronauts which kept exploding on television instead of colonizing Mars.
To Kennedy, who pressured Yeager to relax the requirements, the selectivity of the program seemed largely arbitrary. We see from the destruction of the space shuttles, and some other disasters, why the program had to be so demanding and selective. It’s not an easy thing to go into space, and it can’t really be phoned in by people who are not at peak, with sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to handle all the inevitable contingencies.
In fact, wherever there are institutions charged with accomplishing difficult goals, with stringent entrance requirements, disparate impact always appears, because the gifts of nature are unevenly distributed.
As Silicon Valley falls to diversity concerns, we should expect a similar fate for those companies as we have seen with NASA. Politically speaking, the Valley-ites are too weak and submissive to survive. If the men with the ‘right stuff’ could barely hold off the onslaught in the early 1960s, the technology dwarves of today have no hope of doing so today, especially considering that doctrinaire leftism that has won over the industry.
Calls to diversity appeal especially to the mediocre man, who knows that by displacing the best with non-merit hires, they will have a lighter load, and less will be expected of them overall. Couple that with the warm feeling of moral do-gooding that washes over all the people who lower standards of excellence to employ all the colors of the rainbow within a single institution, and you get a recipe for mediocrity, and eventual failure.
Indeed, SpaceX, the private space exploration company, has recently been sued for racial discrimination.
The idiotic quote from the company spokesman just demonstrates how ignorant that these corporate leaders are about what civil rights law actually means:
“At SpaceX, we don’t care about your gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age or anything else of that nature — to succeed here, the only requirement is to work hard and produce outstanding results,” Taylor said. “Given the ambitious goals of the company, the standards for work performance at SpaceX are very high [and] it is critical that all employees meet this standard.”
That’s a statement of an illegal employment policy. It routinely results in disparate impact, which is why it’s illegal.
Considering that it’s not likely to be possible to dissuade Americans away from civil rights on a reasonable time frame, the best way for countries like Russia, China, the Gulf monarchies, and other small states to take over from America’s scientific leadership is to poach talent and entire industries away from the US, with the promise of noninterference in hiring practices.
For various cultural reasons, it’s difficult to do this, but considering the recent pushes to diversification, and the closing off of the domestic exits, it should be a lot easier for foreign nations to set up special poaching programs similar to the ones that the US used to pursue Soviet talent. The only thing that is surprising is how few of such programs have succeeded, arguably because the countries that would be capable of doing it are so incapable of absorbing foreigners, which is probably a good thing for them in some respects.
Kersey makes the connection to the fall of Detroit, but perhaps it doesn’t go far enough. Japanese and Korean companies supplanted American car companies from their market-leading positions in part because neither country has diversity programs. In fact, the operating philosophy of companies like Honda and Toyota are inextricably linked with Japanese culture. The success of these companies comes from purity, rather than ‘diversity.’
If diversity really brought about strength, GM would be the world’s leading auto manufacturer, and Detroit would look like Tomorrowland.
The fact is that the US will not be dissuaded from its path to decline until it is forcibly dissuaded, probably by some combination of foreign powers and internal dissent. The failure of the Space Shuttle, which presaged the more recent F-35 debacle, will presage future embarrassments.
Americans universally believe in their own eternal military superiority, which is how you know that the US will be crushed militarily by a technologically and morally superior rival some time in the near to mid term. It will also be repetitively defeated by technologically and economically inferior foes, as we have seen since the end of the Korean War.
America’s proxy in Ukraine is being crushed by the materially inferior Russia, and NATO is fraying under the pressure.
Considering that Americans learned nothing from the domestic collapses of the steel, auto, computer hardware (in large part), aerospace, and manufacturing industries, it’s unlikely that the Americans will learn anything from the collapses of the remaining areas in which they enjoy leadership.
This is why competition matters — people, as a rule, do not change, unless they are forced to change by circumstances.