Tuesday, September 4, 2018

First Man Flag Controversy in Context

A movie “First Man” about Niel Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon, has created controversy on how the planting of the United States flag is kept out. When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 16, 1969, the American astronauts stuck a flag next to where they had landed. Five other U.S. flags representing Apollo missions 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 were also erected. The Apollo mission 13 famously failed to land because of malfunctions. For some not adding the flag planting seems to be an anti-American pass. Regardless how a person feels about Hollywood, love them or hate them, the history is more nuanced than patriotism.

That is not to say that patriotism doesn’t play a role. Landing on the Moon was considered the ultimate prize in what is called the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both considered it bragging rights on their way to winning the world’s respect. Two ideologies had fought for influence over twenty years before the landing and would do the same over twenty years after. The race started in 1945 soon after WWII and the defeat of Germany. The Americans and the Russians wanted Nazi cooperating scientists as prizes to contribute to their own scientific advances.

Among the German Nazi specialties was rocket science with the deadly V2 ballistic missile near the end of the war causing havoc in England. At the end of the war the United States and the Soviet Union raced to find rocket plans and experts to capture for further development. The Americans won the prize of capturing leading scientist Wernher von Braun who it is said specifically sought them out. The Russians didn’t leave empty handed, although capturing lesser named individuals. The Russians had their own fellow Soviet patriot Sergei Korolev, knowing covertly as “The Chief Designer,” to lead the race to space. From the beginning going to space could be considered a German-American and German-Russian (after the scientists rejected the Nazi party affiliation) collaboration.

It must be noted that the Soviet Union had no intention of proclaiming they went into space or would be going to the Moon as a “all mankind” achievement. They did it for the ideals of Communism and on behalf of the Soviet Union. The American’s themselves, to also be fair, at first did it for the ideals of Capitalism on behalf of the United States. Causing Americans great concern, the Soviet Union launched the first successful satellite to orbit the Earth Oct. 4, 1957 with Sputnik 1 and the first man to orbit Earth April 12, 1961 with Yuri Gagarin. In response after each Soviet success the United States did the same, with Allan Shepard the first American in Space.