Moonstruck

This year’s Super Bowl pre-game show was decidedly moonstruck.
Standing beside jumpsuited NASA trainees on the 50-yard line, Josh
Groban sang ‘You Raise Me Up,’ while an ‘astronaut’ planted an
American flag atop an enormous model of the moon. The spectacle
ostensibly marked the first anniversary of the Columbia
disaster. However, to journalist Jon Mooallem, the display of moon
fever had more to do with President Bush’s recent speech, which
stressed the necessity of America’s return to outer space. Not only
did the pre-game show reveal the peculiar link between recreation,
competition, and space exploration; it demonstrated Bush’s success
at fostering a feel-good attitude toward future missions.

In his January 14 speech, Bush stated that it was crucial for
Americans to return to outer space, specifically the moon and Mars.
The tenor of his speech was poetic. After glossing over
possibilities for industry (he vaguely states that the moon could
be used as America’s ‘launching point for missions beyond’), and
science (‘we don’t know yet what those breakthroughs will be’),
Bush focused on the adventure itself, one that would ‘test our
limits to dream.’ According to Mooallem, ‘the president’s grandiose
description of his plan severs it from reality and leaves it
floating in the vacuum of sheer possibility.’

In this vacuum, Bush carefully avoided touchy issues, like the
cost and timeline for these missions. In contrast to President
Kennedy’s 1961 speech, which emphasized the economic sacrifice
necessary to put a man on the moon in nine years, Bush’s plan
included a leisurely, ten-year goal for returning humans to the
moon. No date was set for the Mars landing. Economic sacrifice was
not mentioned by Bush, who asked Congress for a billion dollars
without acknowledging where it would come from, or how it would be
missed.

However, Mooallem argues that Bush’s poetics are quite
political. By divorcing space missions from practicality, he may be
able to fashion a feel-good message in time for the election
year.
Anastasia Masurat

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Moonstruck

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