Is there space for peace?

Letter to host of “Q,” submitted to CBC, Dec. 24, 2008 • You opened your Christmas Eve show with a flashback to 1968, the Apollo 8 flight, and the astronauts reading selections from Genesis, the first book of the Bible, while floating in space. “Peace on earth” you speculate could be brought a wee bit closer if we told the Apollo 8 story every Christmas, helping us to see our earth in green and blue perspective.

Many of us remember that flight like it was yesterday. Many of us, as children, were enthralled by the space program, by NASA, and by its celebrities – chief among them, Wernher von Braun.

As adults, many of us learned the truth. Von Braun was a veteran of Hitler’s Germany, scooped up along with dozens of other Nazi-era scientists, a prize catch for the United States.[1] The Apollo program was the direct descendant of von Braun’s Nazi-era rocket research, designed to deliver payloads of death and horror to civilian populations in Britain. We know now that he used slave labour in these activities.[2]

And NASA? The furious pace of its progress in the 1960s was not motivated by the desire to put astronauts in space to read the Bible. That was just window-dressing. The whole program was completely embedded in the arms race. Rocket technology is not about romance and religion, but about mass murder and war – a technology necessary for the delivery of nuclear warheads to whomever might threaten U.S. hegemony.

The Apollo space flights are a poor vehicle with which to bring peace on earth, their roots deeply planted in slave labour, fascism, and the desperate search for the construction of weapons of mass destruction. If the Apollo astronauts had wanted to quote the Bible for peace, they should have stayed away from Genesis and chosen Isaiah instead. To get peace on earth we will have to “beat our swords into ploughshares,” so that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation.”[3] Among the biggest swords to be re-engineered are the rockets of the U.S. space program.

© 2008 Paul Kellogg

References

[1] A fact known for years – see Tom Lehrer’s bitter spoof, available on youtube.
[2] Tony Paterson, “Germans at last learn truth about von Braun’s ‘space research’ base,” The Telegraph, June 14, 2001
[3] Isaiah 2: 4

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