It’s a sign of our times that Tehran is beginning to look like a better Starfleet headquarters than San Francisco.
On Monday, January 28th, 2012, Iranian scientists announced the successful launch and return of the capsule Pishgam (Pioneer), containing a live monkey who survived the trip; a significant step in the Asian Space Race.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded to the event in Washington, saying to reporters “We congratulate the ISA on this momentous achievement; I was overjoyed to see the pictures of the little guy making it safely back to the ground, and all our staff at NASA are honoured that you’ve continued on in the naming conventions of our early probes–”
Oops – my bad, I was channelling the Real Universe for a moment there. Here in the evil Mirror Universe she said "I saw the monkey - the pictures of the poor little monkey preparing to go to space… We don't have any way to confirm this one way or the other with regard to the primate."
Over a PETA, emoting like a School Marm, Jeff Mackey mimicked her outburst:
Like many of you, we were appalled by photos that have surfaced showing a visibly terrified monkey crudely strapped into a restraint device in which he was reportedly launched into space by the Iranian Space Agency. Back in 2011, our friends at PETA U.K. urged agency head Dr. Hamid Fazeli to ground the misguided mission, pointing out that nonhuman primates are no longer sent into space by the American or European space agencies
The reason I bring up PETA is because there are two stories going on here, neither of which says particularly nice things about our civilization.
First there’s the story about why this news has gone viral.
Every mainstream agency reporting on this starts off using words like ‘claimed,’ and ‘unconfirmed,’ suggesting that there’s reason to doubt the Iranians; nothing could be further from the truth. The Iranian Space Agency was formed in 2004, and their first successful launch came in 2008. They’ve been in space; they’ve already launched animals into space; the reason this suddenly became newsworthy in 2013 is because the latest animal, a monkey… is cute.
One half of the voluptuous American public will grow morally outraged when a single monkey goes through a traumatic, but harmless, experience in man’s quest for the stars, while turning a blind eye to the tens of thousands of animals experimented on for cosmetics, acne cream, and obesity medication – priorities. Meanwhile, the other half will be impotently morally outraged that the first half is morally outraged.
Expect to hear some celebrities denouncing this ‘barbaric’ practice.
The second story is that America is lagging behind, and those in power know it.
Still, Nuland noted general U.S. concern with "Iran's development of space launch vehicle technologies," and said the State Department would be working closely with partners and allies "to address our concerns about Iran's missile developments, including by promoting implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions."
If such a launch were to have taken place, according to Nuland, it would be illegal under the 1929 U.N. Security Council resolution, adopted in 2010, that prohibits Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.
Iran, contrary to popular belief (and unlike North Korea), is not run by a mad cultist; Ahmadinejad is kept on a tight leash by the Mullahs, and they know just how dangerous the game they’re playing is. To the west is Israel with its un-admitted nuclear arsenal, while in the Persian Gulf American battleships and aircraft carriers saber rattle, in search for a causus belli.
Developing ICBMs and nuclear devices are the last things on their mind.
The enriched uranium and space flight are not threats, they’re symbols of Iran’s peaceful intentions, delivered in the Muslim’s typical histrionic manner. Certainly, if they could, the Iranians would storm the West and put the Infidels to the sword – but they can’t, and they won’t, and things are going well enough at home that they’d rather not rock the boat.
The State Department knows this.
The reason this launch got people within the American government so upset is because – whether they admit it to themselves or not – they know deep down that America is turning into a second-rate has-been.
Technical ability is declining in the good ol’ US of A; the population is uneducated and unenlightened, dreaming of nothing but the next new gizmo, while suing and regulating actual innovation into obscurity. Miniaturization is not progress; using that miniaturization for something other than increasingly unstable operating systems would be, but that’s just not happening. Occasionally you hear of some lone innovators creating something wondrous, but you only need consider the mediocrity of the market, and the incompetence of the workforce, to understand why the best we can hope for is a bigger, better iPod.
The American people are not interested in achievement.
Just look at NASA: despite its brilliant people, and the amazing feat of delivering a Chevy Silverado to the surface of Mars – intact on the first try, no less (have you ever had a rebuilt engine work on the first go?) they’re forced to operate on a budget which is on par with what most States spend on Education.
Hawai’i: 2,042,145,776 (Pop. 1,392,313)
Alabama: 5,546,070,765 (Pop. 4,822,023)
Texas: $67,150,000,000 (Pop. 26,059,203)
Depending upon where you live, that works out to be between $5,000 – $10,000 per student, at a cost-per-taxpayer of between $1,500 - $3,000 per year. And what does NASA’s budget look like? A paltry $17,770,000,000; less than a third of what Texas spends on educating its populace, or three times Alabama. For the average taxpayer that works out to…
$57 a year to support man’s exploration of space. Meanwhile you pay thousands to support a bloated and ineffective education system, run by-and-for the unions.
On the plus side, now that the Space Shuttle’s been retired without a replacement, NASA can focus more of its funds on the International Space Station; they’ll just have to hitch a ride with the Russians or Europeans.
Here we stand on the cusp of the future – a country which once landed on the moon with pocket calculators – and Iranian goat-herders with technology that’s 30 years out-of-date are dreaming bigger dreams than us.
But this is more than just technological progress grinding to a crawl; it’s also technology going offline.
The LGM-118A Peacekeepers were the replacement for the old Minuteman ICBMs, a critical component of America’s policy of Nuclear Deterrence. The Minuteman suffered deficiencies of both payload and accuracy. Start a war? Bomb a city? No problem. Take out an enemy silo defensively? Even if it hits it’s not going to penetrate the concrete.
The Peacekeepers provided a precise and time-sensitive retaliatory capability; a guarantee that if anybody lobbed one first, the US would be able to punch them back with a quick one-two. Good neighbours and fences and all that. I say “provided” because by 2005 the force of 114 on-alert missiles had been reduced to 10 on standby. Officially this was done out of a misguided philosophy of disarmament; unofficially George Bush II needed to fund his adventure in Iraq. The US can no longer defend itself in a nuclear conflict.
This is why the State Department is so upset by the Iranian Space Monkey: the United States is turning into a second-rate country, not just technologically, but strategically as well. An Iranian rocket on a peaceful mission manages to sum up all of this, to strike cold terror into the souls of the people who thought they could treat the world like a game of puppetry, pulling and yanking on strings, never worrying that they might be breaking the marionettes.
That pungent aroma you smell is a racial memory of Rome burning. Perhaps, when the last set of rafters comes crashing down, the Great Republic will rise again like a Phoenix, now that those who set it aflame are brought low…
No promises, though.