Midweek Myers Movie Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

We’re back with another movie review from Audre Myers, who is tossing in reviews of her favorite flicks whenever the mood strikes (or whenever I e-mail her asking her to contribute something).

She offers up her review of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, about three black women “computers” working for NASA.  It was a darling of the critics for its frank depiction of segregation.

Unfortunately, some its iconic scenes—like the lady having to walk half-a-mile to use a segregated bathroom—are Hollywood hogwash.  The segregated facilities were abolished in 1958—three years before the films setting—and while there were segregated restrooms in one part of NASA’s facilities prior to that year, they were unlabeled.  Katherine Johnson, one of the titular “hidden figures,” unwittingly used the whites only bathroom for years, and ignored the one complaint that was ever issued without any further escalation.

These inaccuracies—perhaps dramatic artistic license?—don’t mean segregation wasn’t real—it certainly was—but it seems that NASA was not exactly the hotbed of segregationist sentiment that the film depicts.  That makes sense—an organization reaching for the stars probably isn’t all that concerned about such earthbound issues as skin pigmentation.  Besides, there are plenty of alien species we can discriminate against in the distant future.

With that, here is Audre Myers’s review of 2016’s Hidden Figures:

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TBT: Music Among the Stars

It’s been a musical week here at The Portly Politico, so I figured, “why stop now?”

I’ve dedicated more and more space on the blog to musical and cultural matters, especially in the last year.  Among the posts I most enjoy writing—and of which I am most proud—are those I write about music.

This week’s TBT feature, “Music Among the Stars,” is one I really enjoy, and I think (humbly) it’s one of my better posts.  It’s about the golden records aboard the Voyager I space probe, and about the true purpose of music—to worship God.

I’ll let the essay speak for itself.  Here is 8 September 2021’s “Music Among the Stars“:

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To the Moon! Part III: Moon Mining

In this blog’s long and storied history, I’ve been a consistent advocate of space exploration, with a particular interest in lunar colonization.  An enduring frustration of this blog is that the United States has satiated its thirst for exploration with the numbing effects of consumer technologies.  Yes, we can FaceTime one another from halfway around the globe and can set our thermostats remotely so the house is cooled down before we arrive—all wonderful conveniences—but is that truly the apex of human endeavor?  Is being comfortable really the point of it all?

There was a time when we dreamed of exploring the stars, or at least of visiting our nearest celestial neighbors.  But that drive for adventure dissipated—or, perhaps, exploded—sometime in the 1980s.  The Age of The Virus further highlights our society’s obsession with safety, an obsession anathema to the derring-do necessary to explore the stars.

To paraphrase Bill Whittle, we’ll know we’re serious about space exploration when our graveyards are filled with astronauts.

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TBT: America Should Expand into Space

On Tuesday, I wrote about NASA’s quest to put humans back on the moon by 2024Space exploration and strategic dominance in space were early topics on this blog.

Indeed, today’s #TBT, “American Should Expand into Space,” was one of the first posts of the TPP 3.0 Era.  The piece looks at the “heartland theory” of geopolitics, and applies that 115-year old concept to space.  “He who controls space, controls the future,” or something like that.

It’s a compelling argument, and while I can’t take credit for applying this particular theory to space—I didn’t know about “heartland theory” until reading Captain Hendrix’s National Review piece about it—I’ve long argued that if the United States doesn’t expand into space first, our enemies will.  You’d better believe the ChiComs wouldn’t hesitate to point a lunar laser at Washington, D.C. (hmm… perhaps not the worst of outcomes) given half the chance.

But I digress.  Here’s hoping a combination of public and private investment in space exploration will yield a new era of boldly conquering the stars.  Here is June 2018’s “America Should Expand into Space“:

Retired U.S. Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix has a piece up at National Review Online entitled “Space: The New Strategic Heartland” in which he urges Congress and the Department of Defense to establish a “Space Force” and to get serious about space exploration and colonization.  It’s an excellent read, and makes some compelling points about why space is, truly, the final frontier.

Captain Hendrix bases his analysis in “heartland theory,” developed in 1904 by British geographer Halford Mackinder.  114 years ago, Mackinder argued that the “heartland” of future geostrategic conflict was Eurasia.  Decades later, as Hendrix explains, former President Richard Nixon wrote that the Middle East and Africa—with their vast mineral resources—would hold the key to determining the victor in the Cold War (influence in these regions, Nixon argued, would determine whether capitalism or communism would prevail).

Now, Hendrix makes the case that space is the new “heartland,” and makes some intriguing points to that effect.  Anyone who has followed the career and writings of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will be familiar with these arguments; indeed, a decade ago I wrote a rough draft of a paper arguing for lunar colonization on similar grounds.

To summarize, they are as follows:

  • China and Russian are looking to disrupt America’s dominance in communications, entertainment, and strategic defense, which we enjoy because of our preeminence in space—think of how disruptive it would be to lose communications or military satellites, which the Chinese are already targeting.
  • Automated construction and manufacturing in space provide the capability to build and launch deep-space rockets more cheaply (the gravity of the moon is one-sixth that of Earth’s), allowing for more cost-effective space exploration.
  • The free market will—and already has!—get more involved in space exploration.  There are meteorites with more gold than has ever been mined on Earth.  Consider, too, China’s dominance of rare-earth metals, which are abundantly available in the space, particularly the asteroid belt.

If space is going to remain a competitive domain, the United States will have to take the lead.  I shudder to think of a Chinese controlled-moon, for example.  I know it sounds batty, but do you really want the Chinese constructing a lunar death laser?  They have the manpower and disregard for human life to do it.

There is room, too, for a conservative approach to space exploration, and we shouldn’t reflexively recoil at government involvement in this regard, so long as it’s done the right way.  Just like the Homestead Act of 1862 (Gingrich actually proposed a “Homestead Act” for the moon!) or the role of the federal government in leasing lands for railroad companies, Congress can provide the framework for space exploration and colonization that would allow the free-market and private enterprise to kick in and work their magic.

What we should avoid is a bureaucracy that is so obsessed with “safety” and “diversity” that our space program is stillborn in its terrestrial cradle.  Fortunately, there is a way forward, and Newt Gingrich delivers again.

Shortly after winning the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in 2012, Gingrich gave a speech in Florida in which he promised that, by the end of his second term as President (sigh… if only), we’d have a colony on the moon.  When he gave this speech, I began hooping like a silver-backed gorilla—and immediately donated $100 from my meager 2012 salary to his campaign.  He was widely derided for this position, but John F. Kennedy made a similarly bold claim in his young presidency—and, sure enough, by 1969, we had a man on the moon.

Since then, Gingrich has remained a strong supporter of space exploration.  Indeed, he’s written on the topic twice recently, and I would encourage readers to explore his ideas further (I should note that I am heartened to see so many writers suddenly taking an interest in space exploration again).

1.) “A Glimpse of America’s Future in Space in 2024” (22 April 2018):  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/04/22/newt-gingrich-glimpse-america-s-future-in-space-in-2024.html

2.) “Entrepreneurs will change space exploration (31 May 2018):  https://good-politic.com/newt-gingrich-entrepreneurs-will-change-space-exploration/2614/

The economy is swinging again, American patriotism is back in style, and President Trump is a bold reformer who dreams and acts big (league).  America is perfectly poised to build upon our already substantial lead in space exploration, and frontiers are our specialty.

Let’s go to Mars!  Let’s build a colony on the moon!  Let’s mine asteroids!

To the Moon!, Part II: Back to the Moon

I’ve long been an advocate for space exploration.  I don’t possess any deep technical knowledge of aviation or aeronautics; I just think the idea of colonizing the moon is cool, and that space holds forth endless opportunities.

In the context of our own nation’s history, space exploration and colonization take on an additional significance:  space is a new frontier for liberty.  People cross the Atlantic to settle the New World, in part because of the promise of being left alone to pursue their own destinies.  What is space but a boundless, inky ocean to be crossed?  What are new worlds but potential bastions of hardscrabble liberty?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about space exploration or lunar colonization, but today’s Scott Rasmussen Number of the Day brought the topic back to my attention.  The occasion is NASA’s announcement that it plans to put humans back on the moon by 2024—four years earlier than previously scheduled.

The rationale behind the accelerated schedule is political:  NASA officials wager that they have a better chance of accomplishing the mission prior to a change in executive administrations.  The Trump Administration has vocally supported revitalizing NASA’s role in space exploration, and Space Policy Directive 1 ordered the return by 2028 following an executive order.

A manned mission to the moon would be the first one since Apollo 17 in 1972.  If NASA succeeds in its mission, the proposed 2024 landing would be the first time a human has set foot on the lunar surface in fifty-two years—a short lifetime.

Rasmussen’s poll found that 37% of voters believe NASA will get humans back to the moon before private companies.  36% believe it will be the other way around.  59% of Americans think both NASA and private companies should be tackling space exploration—a rather prudent opinion, I would argue, though I’d like to see the private sector continue to expand in this area.

Another interesting number from the polling:  60% of men are okay with the additional $1.6 billion in funding this year that would get the project moving, while only 41% of women approve.  That’s an interesting gender gap, but not a surprising one:  women are far more likely to prefer that cash be allocated to more terrestrial matters, like bolstering social programs.  I also suspect there’s something of the boyish wonder at play here, as men are more likely to relish adventure and risk-taking.

Regardless, the prospect of returning to the moon inside of five years is exciting.  Even with pressing concerns here on Earth, we should continue to look outward to our Solar System.  What opportunities might it contain?  Like funding the border wall, $1.6 billion is a drop in the bucket of our federal budget.

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