The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

From the Earth to the Moon ... by Means of Planning

Aug 3, 2009

On July 20, the U.S. government commemorated the 40th anniversary of the first steps of men on the moon. The technical accomplishment, like the courage and skill of the three astronauts who dared to make the trip, fully merits the celebration. For this voyage wasn’t only the symbol of what science could best produce, it was also a hint of what humanity will be capable of when it succeeds in getting rid of the restraints of capitalism.

It was a spectacular success – especially for the methods which the U.S. government had to employ to surpass the Soviet Union in the space race. The U.S., despite its economic superiority, had in fact been surpassed by the USSR with its Sputniks. To make up for lost ground, the U.S. had to follow its rival’s example, employing the greater efficiency in centralization and planning.

Forget about free enterprise, individualism, competition and the law of the market. The government created a special administration, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and gave it all the means it needed. All research centers that had anything to do with space, whether they were under the control of the army, the air force, the navy or the Departments of Commerce and the Interior, were grouped under the authority of NASA. It gave research projects to universities, but NASA ensured they were performed to the highest standards. The same method was used with manufacturers to whom NASA gave certain work to perform. All of it, that is, the work of several hundred thousand people over a ten-year period, was coordinated and planned in order to set foot on the moon by 1970.

Nothing was left to chance, which was essential for an undertaking of this type, and nothing was left to the “invisible hand of the market.” Obviously, that didn’t prevent corporations from getting their profits along the way. But that’s another story.