Wednesday, 17 July 2019

"What we had seen in Apollo 11 in naked essentials — but in reality, not in a work of art — was the concretised abstraction of man’s greatness This is the fundamental lesson to be learned from the triumph: that nothing on earth or beyond it is closed to the power of man’s reason." #QotD

"What we had seen [in Apollo 11] in naked essentials — but in reality, not in a work of art — was the concretised abstraction of man’s greatness. . . .
    "One knew that this spectacle was not the product of inanimate nature, like some aurora borealis, or of chance, or of luck, that it was unmistakably human — with 'human,' for once, meaning grandeur — that a purpose and a long, sustained, disciplined effort had gone to achieve this series of moments, and that man was succeeding, succeeding, succeeding! For once ... the worst among those who saw it had to feel — not 'How small is man by the side of the Grand Canyon!' — but 'How great is man and how safe is nature when he conquers it!'
    "That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt — this was the cause of the event’s attraction and of the stunned, numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being — an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality...
    "There was an aura of triumph about the entire mission of Apollo 11, from the perfect launch to the climax... Not because success was guaranteed -- it is never guaranteed to man -- but because a progression of evidence was displaying the precondition of success: these men knew what they were doing.
    "No event in contemporary history was as thrilling, here on earth, as three moments of the mission's climax: the moment when ... there flashed [on the television screen] the words: 'Lunar module has landed' -- the moment when the faint, grey shape of the ... module came shivering from the moon the screen -- and the moment when the shining white blob that was Neil Armstrong took his first step... He made no reference to God; he did not undercut the rationality of his achievement by paying tribute to the forces of its opposite; he spoke of man. 'That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.' So it was...
    "Why did I feel that joyous sense of self-confidence while watching the mission? In all of its giant course, two aspects pertaining to the inhuman were radiantly absent: the causeless and the purposeless. Every part of the mission was an embodied answer to [the two questions] 'Why?' and 'What for?' -- like the steps of a life-course chosen by the sort of mind I worship. The mission was a moral code enacted in space...
    "The lunar landing was not the greatest achievement of science, but its greatest visible result. The greatest achievements of science are invisible: they take place in a man's mind; the occur in the form of a connection integrating a broad range of phenomena. The astronaut who remarked that his spacecraft was driven by Sir Isaac Newton understood this issue. (And if I may be permitted to amend that remark I would say that Sir Isaac Newton was the copilot of the flight; the pilot was Aristotle.) In this sense, the lunar landing was a first step, a beginning, in regard to the moon, but it was a last step, an end product, in regard to the earth -- the end product of a long, intellectual-scientific development.
    "This is the fundamental lesson to be learned from the triumph of Apollo 11 ... [that] nothing on earth or beyond it is closed to the power of man’s reason."

~ Ayn Rand, from her LA Times op-ed 'Apollo 11' - written after attending the launch, and praised on his return  by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins who “thought the article was probably the best I have read on Apollo XI.”

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