Remember the Hubble Space Telescope? It was a pretty big deal 30 years ago when it launched into low Earth orbit, where it remains today. Stuck with 20th century technology, cracking and in need of expensive repair, Hubble hangs out in the night sky as a sign of old American glory at the Cold War’s end.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) was supposed to update Hubble for the twenty-first century. Webb, we are told, boasts 15 times the collection area of Hubble and will be able to capture infrared images in high resolution.
Pretty cool. And last week, NASA announced its new James Webb Space Telescope finally has a launch date:
NASA plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit Dec. 18, 2021, to serve as the premier deep space observatory for the next decade…
The highly complex space telescope is currently resting in its final stow configuration at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California.
“Webb is an exemplary mission that signifies the epitome of perseverance,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “I am inspired by our dedicated team and our global partnerships that have made this incredible endeavor possible. Together, we’ve overcome technical obstacles along the way as well as challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. I also am grateful for the steadfast support of Congress. Now that we have an observatory and a rocket ready for launch, I am looking forward to the big day and the amazing science to come.”
It all sounds very exciting until you realize what is left out of the press release.
One striking omission: even if Webb launches this year, it will be 14 years late and cost 20 times the original budget.
Here’s how that happened:
The JWST started development in 1996, with a 2007 launch date. Originally budgeted to cost $500 million, that price tag has ballooned to $10 billion. And there is still nothing to show for it. $10 billion and 25 years in development, we are still taking space pics with the Cold War-era Hubble, while the JWST remains a beached whale.
The project’s Wikipedia page lists at least 14 times NASA has promised a launch date for the JWST, only to kick it back farther:
If the disastrous war in Afghanistan were a telescope, it would be the James Webb telescope.
When Americans squander decades of time and billions of dollars only to get nothing in return, they can rest assured a defense contractor is lurking somewhere in the storyline.
It’s the same story all over again at NASA. To this day, the most powerful rocket in US history remains the F-1 rocket engine. This was the engine used to propel the Apollo moon missions. But today, American rocket engineers are incapable of reproducing the F-1. They remarkably lack the skills and know-how to match earlier achievements from generations ago.
In other words, antiquated technology is as elusive to us today as future technology. America’s reached its high water mark for a task as rote and mechanical as rocket power over 50 years ago.
It’s not for lack of throwing money at the problem. The Space Launch System (“SLS”) was supposed to be NASA’s solution to rocket impotence problem. NASA began development on SLS 10 years ago, and despite costs to taxpayers ballooning up to $20 billion and counting, it still has never even launched.
And like with the JWST, military contractors have cleaned out the US Treasury’s piggy bank as they failed their way forward. For the SLS, the prime contractor is Boeing.
Meanwhile, In China
For some reason, China doesn’t seem to be having any of these problems. In fact, they are absolutely cleaning America’s clock in outer space.
In 2019, China made history by becoming the first country to land a probe on the dark side of the moon.
China then proceeded to become the first country to grow plants on the moon.
As the US co-led International Space Station — still in orbit after 23 years — suffers cracks, pressure-drops and accidents, China is planning a great leap forward: a mile-long megaship over which it would have total national control.
This summer, China has even matched the US’s feat of landing a rover on Mars.
To be sure, the US does retain considerable advantages over China when it comes to space technology. China isn’t really that close to matching the SpaceX/NASA heavy lift capability or compete on price performance of American and European low weight to orbit capability any time soon. The US currently has roughly 2500 satellites orbiting the Earth, whereas China has roughly 430 satellites. But that figure already puts China as the world’s #2 satellite power, and new launches are happening rapidly in the Middle Kingdom. China launched four new satellites last week alone.
During the Cold War, Mao Zedong reportedly lamented that “China cannot even put a potato in space.” Today, China has come dangerously close to matching the US in virtually every facet of space competition. The two most notable exceptions are satellites, which are principally IT infrastructure, and manned moon missions. But with America unable to even replicate the rockets it used to send men to the moon, it’s unclear whether those missions can still be put in America’s column today.
That’s a manned moon mission before the next presidential election — and we haven’t even gotten the test rocket to lift off the ground yet. The spacesuits alone, marred by gender identity politics, somehow now cost $1 billion each and the impossibility of easily conforming specs to women is now being floated as an official excuse to delay the mission entirely.
Again and again, that’s the story with modern NASA: An organization which used to have the sole objective of greatness has been sidetracked into chasing solely political objectives. A scientist with decades of experience working with NASA spoke bluntly with Revolver about the nature of the problem.
“NASA is clearly more focused on ‘diversity’ set asides than technological achievement — when I submit a NASA grant application I focus more on making sure my team looks diverse and I’ve got the right outreach buzzwords than on the science,” the scientist said.
Close your eyes and try to imagine China kneecapping its national glory because Chinese females and Uyghur Muslims must be artificially injected into every nook and cranny of its space program’s leadership, science and engineering personnel, and specific mission team selection.
No, China systematically prioritizes National Greatness over Racial And Gender Grievance. The United States used to prioritize greatness as well, and in fact became the greatest space-faring nation ever to exist on account of its singular dedication to victory and excellence. But our priorities have now changed and our supremacy in the 21st century is increasingly uncertain, even doubtful, as a result.
Greatness VS. Grievance: Choose One
It is hard to overstate NASA’s emphasis on “diversity, inclusion and equity” over any actual achievements in recent history.
In July 2010, President Obama’s NASA Chief Charles Bolden told Al-Jazeera:
When I became the NASA administrator, [President Obama] charged me with three things. One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.
Note the word “foremost.” The head of NASA was told by the US President that his foremost task was to make foreign citizens, of racially and religiously preferred backgrounds, artificially “feel good” about their own STEM field contributions.
The 2016 NASA Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Implementation Plan made sure there was no escape from racial and gender diversity quotas and the dismantling of merit hiring and promotion standards, both internally and across NASA’s contractors.
In 2018, NASA’s “Strategic Plan” repeatedly framed hitting its diversity quotas and dismantling merit as critical to “addressing national challenges” and “optimizing capabilities.” No “strategic analysis,” however, appeared to be done on how artificial diversity at the cost of competence and cohesion was supposed to translate into unity and strength, rather than incompetence and division.
Most recently, this summer, in June 2021, NASA launched “Mission Equity”:
NASA this week launched a new “equity” mission to recruit people from more diverse backgrounds — but it was quickly derided online as an unnecessary woke step toward “critical space theory.”
The space agency launched its “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in NASA Programs, Contracts and Grants” program on Tuesday, sharing a video of staffers of varying racial backgrounds delivering the new inclusive message.
“At NASA, we’re on a mission of equity, launching opportunity … to reach those we’ve never reached before … To shatter boundaries and break down barriers across America,” the staffers say.
The agency said it wants to reach those who are “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color” as well as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons.” …
NASA is a 21st-century agency with 22nd-century goals. To be successful, it’s critical that NASA takes a comprehensive approach to address the challenges to equity we see today,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
“22nd-Century goals” is apparently a euphemism for NASA’s prime contractors in the defense sector that were recently humiliated by 12th century Taliban forces. They’re so far forwards, you see, that the unenlightened perceive them as moving backwards.
No self-reflection is allowed at NASA. There is only the permanent ugliness of failure and waste. See how many minutes you can make it into NASA’s 29:36 “Mission Equity: Making NASA Accessible to All” and post your score in the comments:
In 2014, Peter Thiel argued that, effectively, “technology stalled in 1970.” What Thiel suggested was that, if ones subtract information technology – which is designed to supplement hard technologies and infrastructure — there were very few “advancements” that were tangible and real:
According to Thiel, developments in computers and the Internet haven’t significantly improved our quality of life. In a new book, he warns entrepreneurs that conventional business wisdom is preventing them and society as a whole from making major advances in areas, such as energy or health, where technology could make the world a better place…
[Q:]One of the most striking claims in your book is that we haven’t had significant technological progress since around 1970. What about computing?
Progress in computers and the Internet helps with communications, and it’s enabled us to make things far more efficient. On the other hand, most other fields of engineering have been bad things to go into since the 1970s: nuclear engineering, aero- and astronautical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, even electrical engineering. We are living in a material world, so that’s pretty big to miss out on. I don’t think we’re living in an incredibly fast technological age.
America’s elevation of Grievance over Greatness is yet another, and perhaps decisive, factor in the stagnation Thiel describes. The very fact that we cannot even conceive of another moon mission without reframing it as a women’s rights and minority rights objective is instructive. In the Globalist American Empire, every major undertaking must be recast in light of our underlying ideological obsession with racial and gender grievance. Even the dramatic failure in Afghanistan had to be cast in terms of a mission to promote women’s rights.
Is greatness possible under such conditions?
In the 1960s, America’s frenzied push for national excellence was so powerful, that it eagerly employed Wernher von Braun, a former SS member implicated in the use of slave labor by the Third Reich. In contrast, is there any doubt today that any NASA engineer, no matter how talented or important, would be completely ruined if a tape surfaced of them using the N-word five years ago?
What is the last Great Work the USA has even embarked on, let alone accomplished? Take a moment to ponder that question silently to yourself. The Hoover Dam? The Interstate Highway system? The Apollo moon landing?
Of course, it’s possible that the James Webb Space Telescope launches this year, albeit 14 years late. It’s possible the Space Launch System finally gets off the ground, despite a decade of failing to replicate horsepower levels we had in the 1960s.
But would these qualify as truly Great Works like putting humans on the moon in 2024?
From a practical standpoint, it is hard enough to achieve some great objective without attaching a massive, and likely, futile egalitarian social engineering condition on top of it. At a certain point the all-consuming imperatives of racial, gender, and LGBTQ grievance overwhelm whatever other objective they might be attached to, even to the point of becoming a consolation prize for failure.
In other words, there’s an underlying sense that if we can’t accomplish some great feat in a “woke” fashion, it’s not worth accomplishing at all. And if we aren’t able to accomplish the feat in question (say, returning to the moon) it’s not such a big deal because it’s the wokeness, not the achievement that counts. If China beats us back to the moon, we possess the moral victory because we intended to put a black woman in a wheelchair on the moon, whereas China put an ordinary Chinese person on the moon. If we are routed and humiliated in Afghanistan after 20 years and trillions of dollars spent, it is unfortunate, but we still have the high ground because we care about women’s rights there.
The Globalist American Empire’s woke obsession therefore not only propels us to failure, it serves as a palliative helping to condition us to failure as the new normal. The more America humiliates itself on the global stage, the more desperately its regime and its institutions will cling to “wokeness” as the consolation prize for a failing and diminishing empire.
The truth is quite simple. The 21st Century does not belong to nations that care about “racism” and “sexism.” A nation such as ours that would care far more about a General using the N-word than losing a war is not a serious one.
If we want any chance of restoring seriousness to our once great nation, there is no choice but to discredit and delegitimize the woke religion that currently animates it — along with all of the regime’s institutions that embrace this woke religion. Unless this is achieved, other, more worthy nations will surpass us — and our former Greatness will prove far more remote than the stars.