This weekend’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 lunar landing is a reminder of one of those rare, thrilling moments where the world was held in thrall by something exciting and inspiring. The culmination of the Apollo program was a testament to the intersection of humanity and technology, as well as a demonstration of the American can-do spirit.
Yet, to Sophie Pinkham at the New York Times, the accomplishments of the Apollo program weren’t enough because they were too male and too white.
In fact, Pinkham tells us that the real victor of the space race was the Soviet Union, because they put the first woman and first minorities in space.
Pinkham’s telling statements come at the beginning and end of her New York Times piece. In the first paragraph, she writes:
The Cold War was fought as much on an ideological front as a military one, and the Soviet Union often emphasized the sexism and racism of its capitalist opponents — particularly the segregated United States. And the space race was a prime opportunity to signal the U.S.S.R.’s commitment to equality. After putting the first man in space in 1961, the Soviets went on to send the first woman, the first Asian man, and the first black man into orbit — all years before the Americans would follow suit.
She closes with this statement:
Cosmonaut diversity was key for the Soviet message to the rest of the globe: Under socialism, a person of even the humblest origins could make it all the way up.
Good grief. When did the Times hire writers from Pravda?
For five decades, we’ve celebrated the Apollo program (and what NASA accomplished leading up to it) as a triumph of technology and innovation. While the men who walked on the moon looked pretty homogeneous, they were backed by thousands of men and women of all walks of life who worked at NASA and various contractors to make the moon shots happen.
Our space program wasn’t – and still isn’t – an experiment in social engineering. America didn’t race to check boxes for diversity on the way to the moon; NASA pushed to get somebody to the moon.
But the most disgusting part of Pinkham’s ridiculous piece is not that she calls out the lack of diversity in Apollo. The worst thing Pinkham does is actually claim that the Soviet space program was somehow better because it was diverse, even though it failed.
Pinkham somehow portrays the Russians’ losing side in the space race as a noble billboard for the ability of anyone to succeed in a socialist system. This assertion is simply false, since socialism and communism have put exponentially more people down than they’ve built up.
Sophie Pinkham and the New York Times have managed to spit in the face of the thousands of people who worked hard to make the lunar landing and subsequent missions a reality. They have also propped up not only a failed space program but a failed political and economic system that cost millions their lives.
Shame on them.