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(16) Laylaki

Concorde and the Moonshot are both cited as example to demonstrate why technological progress has arrested—civilian supersonic travel has vanished and nobody has gone back to the Moon; though perhaps someone will soon go to Mars. Perhaps technology has stagnated; however, neither of these two cases can count as examples to support this thesis. Concorde emerged from Labour’s commitment to the “white heat of technological revolution”; supposedly, Labour would oversee a proverbial quantum leap in British fortunes through state-sponsored technology; as such, Concorde was a product of state subsidy pure and simple—it was not wanted or sustainable, and, as with many subsidies, the state subsidised an already elite class.

The Moonshot was the same story: there was no need to have a manned space program; from the first the astronauts were ride alongs, not much better than the experimental monkeys that were first shot into space—a fact that the hotshot pilots recruited to be the original astronauts resented. “But if the Americans hadn’t had a manned space program the Soviets would have beaten them!” Communism would have collapsed anyway, it was already finished at core—even if it reached the Moon first its advance in space really just represented stolen German science, not autochthonous ability. Soviet advance in manned space flight might have lowered morale, but if the US said “we’re not doing it, we’re pursuing a robotic program” the edge would have been blunted.

NASA was badly run from its inception, being a post-New Deal bureaucracy (it has only degraded); although it was adventurous to go to the Moon, once it was done they just lollygagged about for a few decades (there was no genuine demand). If there had been a purely robotic program, I think that by the mid-1990s it would have developed to such an extent you would have had a man on the Moon and then, within a few years, as expected, a man on Mars—it would have arisen from a genuine commercial satellite structure.

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