Feb 21 2012
Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first American to orbit the Earth. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn carried the hopes of Americans with him as he did 3 revs, inspired the Australians in Perth to turn their lights on as he passed over them, survived a faulty sensor indicating his heat shield might be loose, and became a national hero at the level of Charles Lindbergh.
Earlier as a Marine pilot, Glenn completed the first transcontinental supersonic flight from California to New York in 3 hours 23 minutes. And in 1959 he became one of the original 7 NASA astronauts.
Glenn’s orbital flight in 1962 got the U.S. back ino the Space Race, but it came after 2 Soviet cosmonauts had already orbited in 1961. This international competition had been noted by Missiles and Rockets, The Missile/Space Weekly in their year-end editorial for December, 1961:
With still a long way to go, we now are back in the race with the Russians with the avowed intent of catching and passing them.
Eventually the U.S. did reach the Moon first (in 1969), but the irony of the current situation, where the U.S. must hitch a ride with the Russians to send its astronauts to the International Space Station, is not lost on Glenn:
Back in those days, one of the major driving forces in support of the program was the fact that we were in competition with the Soviets.
And yet here we are these 50 years later, (paying) 60-some million dollars per astronaut to go up there and back. And this is supposed to be the world’s greatest space-faring nation.
That part of how we’ve developed I don’t agree with at all. I don’t think the shuttle should have been canceled until we had a replacement for it.
The 1961-2 geopolitical chronology is amazing for its intensity and juxtaposition of several powerful wildcards and soon-to-be tipping points:
For example, the founding of the Peace Corps, the first human in space, and the Bay of Pigs invasion all occurred within about 6 weeks of each other. Within only 3 months of establishment of the Peace Corps the first American had gone into space, and JFK committed the U.S. to send men to the Moon and had offered to cooperate with the Soviets in a joint Moon program.
Six months after Glenn’s flight the Russians were building secret missile bases in Cuba which triggered the Cuban Mission Crisis in October, 1962. During this event Khruschev threatened a “world nuclear missile war.”
This type of rapid-fire, potentially threatening action is to be expected from a “critical state” after decades of self-organization of the international economic system. Something analogous to the early 1960s critical state — involving the Middle East, North Korea, and others — is apparently rippling through the world today.
Just as the 1960s Cold War led to the first Space Age, 200+ years of macroeconomic and technology development patterns suggest it’s likely the currently approaching “critical state” will trigger the new international Space Age.
CLICK: Are Stratfor’s “Generational Shifts” like “Falling Grains of Sand”?