Sharing a Legacy

>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I read this article the other day about NASA's search to find a good method to make Von Braun's voluminous notes searchable and accessible. Damn that's cool.

I know that when I read Encyclopedia Astronautica (something I recommend for any space afficionado), I'm amazed at the detail they have on the ins and outs of the Russian/Soviet space agency, the infighting, the crew, etc. Clearly they have access to some useful sources.

Here's a chance for us to read about our own history (and it is our history) in detail. What we did and why we did it. I can't begin to tell you why the last part is so important, especially as we struggle to retrace their steps.

See, without knowing why someone chose a particular path (even if we know the path), we miss all the reasons why another wasn't chosen and can save serious missteps, can know if the reasons were technical or driven by other circumstances that might not be applicable today. I can't wait to get my eyes on this.

Knowing where we've been, of course, is always useful. But knowing how we got there and what we learned along the way...priceless.

P.S., for those of you who can't get past his Nazi past; I don't see it that way. Not that I condone Nazism or the use of slave labor or the horrible things done with the rockets he designed. I also don't know the circumstances and do know that people in love with a dream (like spaceflight) can close their minds to the methods they use to attain it (explanation, not excuse). When it came to rocketry, however, he was a genius and to throw away those lessons wantonly because you didn't like him as a person - well, I think that's terribly wasteful. Just sayin'.


  • The Mother

    I can't comment on the Encyclopedia Astronomica, since I really didn't even know it existed until now. Nor can I comment on Von Braun, with whom I have only a passing familiarity.

    But I am a big Nietzsche fan. And yes, hubby is a Jew and my children, ostensibly are. (although there is some controversy as to whether Neitzsche really was so antisemitic, or whether his sister and her Nazi husband added a lot of that stuff after his death).

    Shakespeare wrote "The Merchant of Venice" in a very different time. Very antisemitic.

    Dorothy L Sayer, one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, includes Jewish characters with clear antisemitic stereotypes. But she wrote in the 20s.

    Here's the thing. We are all a product of our culture, and our times. In light of modern sensibilities, these things are clearly wrong. We can ask ourselves, "Couldn't they SEE they were wrong?"

    But the answer is, given their upbringing, their political and religious bias, and the feel of the times?

    Probably not.

    I like to think I'm enlightened enough to understand that.

  • Stephanie B

    I'm with you. Many people aren't. They want to impose our enlightened attitudes (that have their own blinds spots even today) on Jefferson owning slaves or the Japanese being blase about killing peasants.

    There are a lot of things we easily gloss over from the safety of our armchairs. I'm grateful indeed that I'm not having to make some of the hard choices, live with the prejudices and notional concepts (bathing used to be considered life threatening) my ancestors lived with.

  • Richard

    Hey, bathing IS life threatening! Over 300 people drown in bathtubs every year in the US (more a 1 in 10,000 chance over a lifetime per person).

    But whatever you do, don't even think about taking a bath in Japan! They must have some serious attack tubs over there!

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