Media Obsession; Booming Along; Race to the Moon

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Good morning, it’s Thursday, December 6, 2018. Fifty years ago today, Time magazine came out with an arresting cover depicting two men in space suits striding toward the lunar surface, as if engaged in a strenuous sprint. One was an American astronaut, the other a Soviet “cosmonaut.” Only four words accompanied the artistic rendering, a headline succinctly summing up the cover story inside: “Race for the Moon.”

I’ll have a word on the space race in a moment. First, I’d direct you to our front page, which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors this morning, including the following:

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Measuring the Media’s Trump Obsession. Kalev Leetaru lays out tracking data comparing attention paid to the president and his predecessor.

Three Ways to Continue Trump Economic Boom. Steve Cortes offers this prescription.

Five Facts: President George H.W. Bush's Major Life Achievements. In RealClearPolicy, the bipartisan think thank No Labels reviews high points in the departed president's life.

Bush Stood Up for Free Trade … and Paid a Price. In RealClearHistory, Pratik Chougule revisits  the 41st president’s stance, which benefited the man who defeated him in 1992.

Another “Too Big to Succeed” Army Program? In RealClearDefense, Daniel Goure spotlights the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, which has been in development since 2004. Its much-delayed deployment is now set for … 2025.

Mark Leibovich’s Entertaining “Big Game.” RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny reviews the New York Timesman’s book about pro football.

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By December 6, 1968, most Americans expected the United States to win the race to the moon, a challenge laid down by John F. Kennedy at the beginning of the decade. Eight weeks earlier, Apollo 7 had demonstrated NASA’s rendezvous capabilities in space, much of it televised. Those old enough to remember might recall the thrill of Cmdr. Wally Schirra reporting 10 minutes into the flight, “She’s riding like a dream.”

On this date that year, NASA was deep into planning the next mission, Apollo 8, the first that would orbit the moon. The commander this time was Frank Borman, a graduate of West Point who’d been a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Cal Tech and had become an accomplished test pilot. Also on his crew were Jim Lovell, a former U.S. Navy aviator, and USAF Maj. Bill Anders, a third jet fighter pilot.

Although these guys knew what they were doing in the sky, no one was sure how the propellant system underneath them would do. The Apollo 8 crew was the first that had been launched atop NASA’s powerful Saturn V rocket.

Apollo 8 reminds us that the advancement of civilization into unknown frontiers is almost always a step-by-step process, and rarely proceeds in a linear and logical fashion. The “space race” may have pitted Americans against Russians, but it was an Englishman name George Cayley, born in December 1773, who dared to imagine space flight. The “father of aerodynamics,” Cayley laid out the principles of fixed-wing flight in 1799. Fifty years before the Wright brothers made history at Kitty Hawk, he built a full-sized glider that flew 900 feet before crashing. He openly discussed manned flight, and correctly predicted the innovation that would make it viable: the construction of lightweight engines.

In other words, when John Adams was president, an innovator who was neither American nor Russian began laying the groundwork. And 169 years later, the first humans saw the dark side of the moon. In so doing, they not only truly convinced NASA engineers that President Kennedy’s famous goal was within reach, they also took a photograph, called “Earthrise,” that helped launch an enterprise of an entirely different nature back on their home planet: I’m talking about the environmental movement

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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