Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To the Moon, Comrade!

Greetings, psychonauts!

Bet you thought I forgot about you today, didn't ya? Well, no such luck! Here we go.

Today on The Ride, a look back in history. On this day, October the 4th, in the year 1957, the Soviet Union cut the ribbon on the Space Age with the launch of Sputnik. Sputnik, named for the Russian word for "satellite", was launched into the night sky over the Kazakh Republic, where it began its 4 month journey whipping around the Earth, completing an orbit roughly once ever hour and a half.

Of course, what most people (in the United States at least, I can't speak for the rest of the world) remember about Sputnik is not the awe-inspiring achievement of the first artificially constructed satellite being launched into the heavens, but rather the fevered and wild fear that accompanied the fact that it was the Russians, the mortal enemy of our great nation, had made this accomplishment. And they simply couldn't be trusted.

Officially, Sputnik was launched to gather data and broadcast it back to Earth over a simple radio transmission. Any amateur radio operator with the right gear could tune in as Sputnik flew over their corner of the world and listen to the steady beeps of the transmission. Of course, in the social climate of the Cold War, being able to listen as a Soviet satellite flew invisible over your head every 90 minutes results in a prime breeding ground for panic and paranoia. And thus, the Space Race was born!

After all, it simply wouldn't do to all those pinko scum to control the very heavens. Mastery of the celestial sphere could only belong to good, God-fearing American capitalist interests. And so, in January of 1958, the United States had launched its first satellite in response to the Soviets. Of course, by this time Sputnik's orbit had already deteriorated, causing it to fall from the sky. But by the time the US had launched their satellite, the USSR was already on to bigger and better things with Sputnik 2, which they used to launch the first dog into space. In fact, the Soviets remained steadfast in keeping their spot at the front of the space race, until of course the US made a fantastic leap by placing the first man on the moon with the Apollo missions. But we won't get into the complexity of that argument now.

And here we stand, 54 years later. The Soviet Union has been dissolved. The United States stands supreme in their position as a super power, at least for now. Yet what I find interesting, in this post-Cold War world, is that the loss of freedom that so concerned the ruling political body of that era appears to have come about at its own hands. I know I keep bringing this up, but the daily footage from the Occupy Wall Street protests do a lot to show you the kind of police state we live in in America these days. And what kind of videos do we see from Russia? Well, how about this one.

That's right. A fucking motorcycle with a full drum kit and guitar amplification. When I first saw this video, the first thing that went through my head was "This has to be the most American thing I have ever seen." Until I read the description and discovered it was filmed on a Russian highway. How's that for freedom? Those guys aren't even wearing helmets! Meanwhile, in New York City, the police are herding people like cattle into precincts to keep them from disrupting the continued abuse of the American public at the hands of the capitalist bankers we spent years fighting the communists to protect.

It's a Brave New World kids. Strap in.

The Ride is always getting Weirder.

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