On Human unity and the “Curiosity” NASA Control Room

In this video of the NASA control room during the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, I don’t see only one race or gender. I see human beings of various shades and cultures and both sexes, collaborating in a project far beyond the atmosphere of our home planet. (3:13 in is the explosion of delight). In fact, the control room reminded me a little of the 1966 deck of the Star Trek Enterprise, and I’m sure Gene Rodenberry would be jumping up and down for joy along with them.

We humans have common achievements every day. No technology we use in our daily life has been developed by only one sort of human being. The medical procedures and inventions that save our lives are invented by all kinds of people, and the physicians who deploy them are likewise diverse.

Why can’t we erupt in joy together more often, as that control room did, in celebration of the wonder of human beings’ achievement of unprecedented insights into our universe?

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18 Responses

  1. I agree! But what are quite notably in short supply are faces of black Americans. MUCH more work to be done to encourage African Americans to pursue studies in the fields of math,science, and engineering. And here’s a wish: that our country invested as heavily in studying the oceans–which are essentially the life support system of our planet earth–as it invests in NASA to go to Mars.

  2. I share the sentiments of yr post. I watched it live and enjoyed vicariously the feelings of excitement & pride (there were even tears!).

    Then followed the Press Conference led by the two “Obama Suits” (all engineers were uniformed in sky-blue short-sleeved shirts), and what followed (what little I could stand to listen to before I turned it off in disgust) was the opposite of the spirit of your post: chest-beating American exceptional-ism, including (in the list of Curiosity payoffs) a boon to “National Security”. That’s when I turned it off – when I risked barfing on my keyboard.

    While Humanity was approaching Mars, Sikhs, in the Heartland of America, were murdered in their Pacifist Temple. American Exceptional-ism, yeah right.

    • I deeply respect the Sikhs, but to call them pacificts? That’s crazy. They are the ‘tip of the spear’ of the Indian military and great fighters for many 100’s of years.

  3. You’ll see that same explosion of joy when a free safety bliltzes and spears a quarterback and knocks him out of the game. Or in videos from helmet-cams of Our Troops, when a 1,000-lb GBU blows the shit out of an “enemy outpost,” or from “Taliban” videos of IEDs blowing the shit out of GIs in their Buffalos…

    The trick is to build cues and incentives into the culture that minimize those kinds of fierce bloody joys, all part of the fellow-feeling, we’re-part-of-the-same-tribe set of sensations that the ole limbic system keeps on pounding as a rhythm to our brains, and encourage and reinforce the other kind…

  4. An artist acquaintance of mine created a collage of pictures, hundreds of them, documenting every aspect of the production of a dinner place setting. She traveled everywhere to photo the people who in one way or another had a part in getting the knives, forks, spoons, plates and glasses to the table. It was a marvelous piece of work featuring hundreds of people from miners to truck drivers to designers to caterers and all just to produce a place setting! We are all in this together, all of our lives intertwined in so many ways.

    The best way to change the minds of those who hate one group or another would be to have the objects of their hatred suddenly disappear, in order to see the result of the wish to see them gone come true. It would be surprising!

  5. “Why can’t we erupt in joy together more often, as that control room did, in celebration of the wonder of human beings’ achievement of unprecedented insights into our universe?”

    One political party and nearly another are devoted to the ideology that society is comprised of atomistic individuals. The individual is paramount and that success is the direct consequence of making the right choices faced by all of us.

    Therefore, if individuals are “free to choose,” then they are responsible for the outcome. If someone is poor, s/he made the wrong human/capital choices. If women earn $0.71 for every dollar a man makes they just like choosing </b) to be secretaries or lower paid, traditional "women's work." If someone is unemployed s/he chooses to be out of work. Those people prefer idleness to being gainfully employed. If someone is on welfare, s/he prefers laziness over initiative and enterprise. When President Reagan was in Moscow in the early 1980’s, he was asked why there were homeless people in NYC. His response was “they choose to be there.

    This right wing manner of thinking places all the responsibility for poverty, gender income inequality, unemployment and homelessness is placed right back onto the shoulders of the victims. Their philosophy is “you’re on your own (YOYO). This is known as “blaming the victim” and it is an apology for capitalism.

  6. I don’t see only one race or gender. I see human beings of various shades and cultures and both sexes

    While I respect the sentiments behind this celebration, I am uneasy about the conclusion. Speaking as one pale male to another (Prof. Cole), I cannot but see a predominance of while guys in the room. The comparison with the Star Trek TOS crew (token black woman, Asian man, and Walter Koenig with Russian accent, all in subordinate positions) seems indeed apt.

    Therefore I’m thinking maybe we should leave it to members of the various under-represented groups themselves (women, racialized, non-Christian, LGBTQ, handicapped…) to declare achieving the 1960 vision (of a white guy) grounds for cultural celebration?

    • The point is not that the group was representative, but that it contained diversity. Most people on the enterprise were of northern European heritage, too. Let us acknowledge the Asian-Americans (East and South) on a day after one of their congregations was attacked by a Nazi.

      • I was as moved as you were, but I was disappointed at the level of diversity in that room. Yes there were more than a handful of Asian-Americans, but fewer women, and virtually no African-Americans. Besides Charles Bolden, the Administrator of NASA, I could make out only one other black person. It was fairly shocking.

    • Well, all the most productive engineers in this country are foreign students who will eventually go back home, work for crappy salaries and build up their countries while America worships at the dying embers of its fraudulent FIRE sector, like many declining empires before us.

      Those engineers can’t work for NASA – they’re a security risk. The people who aren’t a security risk? Half of them believe that the earth is 6000 years old, that capitalism can’t possibly destroy the environment, and that Obama is a secret Moslem. Not much to work with here.

  7. ” I don’t see only one race or gender. I see human beings of various shades and cultures and both sexes”

    That’s a keen eye you must have. A woman, a man from the Pacific Rim, Gandalf. If I missed a hobbit or two, forgive me.

  8. I know the answer… Everyone in that room, or nearly eveyone, is an athiest.

  9. You wonder whether Republicans take part in the pride because this accomplishment contradicts the dogma that the government can’t do anything right.

    • The same blockheads that carry placards reading “Keep your filthy government hands off my Medicare.”

      As a species, we are too stoopid to survive. Nice that we can leave artifacts of our local greatnesses as the bases of other gravity wells, and even propel one little bit of technology right out of the Solar System…

    • The hypocrisy of exempting NASA from “evil big government” abounds here in Houston. Then there was Sen. Gramm’s worship of the Superconducting Supercollider. And looming over it all, Texan militarism.

      But it all becomes very simple if you consider Plato’s Republic, where a haughty rich boy tells Socrates that justice is “to do good to your friends and harm to your enemies”. That was Plato’s diagnosis of the madness of tribalism, the honest conservatism of 2400 years ago. In the context of that book, it meant what the proper mission of government is.

      The people who profit from the military-industrial complex, which unfortunately is deeply entangled with NASA and high-end college science, are friends of the “tribe”. Engineers and scientists help us with weapons to dominate the world. Though them pinko scientists might get kicked out if they keep bad-mouthing fossil fuels. We must also support our boys in uniform on the same principle, no matter how crazy the case might be. We must support our “productive” citizens, meaning if they’re white and rich they must make America stronger unless they’re George Soros, in which case they’re parasites (but we have dropped the prefix “Jew”).

      But when conservatives talk against the injustice of big government, it is that it helps people who may be citizens but are not really of the “tribe”. Not our friends, thus our enemies. I think you can guess who’s on this list.

      Unfortunately, the Right has had 2400 years to entangle, obfuscate and embellish their once-forthright bigotry into a vast bible of self-serving contradictions. For this reason Nazi murderers like Breivik and Wade The Loser are quite refreshing compared to Christians and capitalists.

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