Frank Borman – American Hero

1957 – America was losing the Cold War with Russia. The year ended with the shit really hitting the fan.

October 1st – The Strategic Air Command initiates 24/7 nuclear alert in anticipation of a Soviet ICBM surprise attack. Something was brewing with the Russian Rocket Force but it turns out it wasn’t an attack. Because

October 4th –  The Sputnik satellite was launched. President Eisenhower is depressed though he noted to Mamie that an ICBM attack would have been worse.

November 3rd –  Sputnik 2 was launched. Khrushchev smirks ‘with little Laika aboard’. The dog dies and becomes a Soviet hero. Eisenhower kicks Heidi, Mamie’s husky Weimaraner. Heidi survives with a bruised rib but Ike ends up missing a week of golf as he takes Mamie and Heidi to Kansas City so Mamie can spend time with her mother.

November 7th – Admiral ‘Rip’ Radford, Chairmen of the Joint Chief of Staff, recommends President Eisenhower initiate an urgent campaign to build fallout shelters. The Russians are ready to ‘completely fuck us over’ was Admiral Radford’s assessment.

You’re joking of course. Right? Right? Hmm.

November 15th – Khrushchev challenges Eisenhower to a missile ‘shooting match’ to prove Russia is far ahead of the United States in missile capabilities. Eisenhower, however, declines.

1958 – America grits its teeth against the swarthy Russians. Republicans in the House steal Herbert Hoover’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan to stir up the folks down home.

January 21st – Eisenhower delivers his famous ‘Duck and Cover’ State of the Union address. Congress immediately approves a national program to build bomb shelters in all American cities and insure schools are equipped with strong metal desks.

March 12th – Yakety Yak is recorded by the Coasters

April 17th – Frank Borman, an Air Force professor at West Point, requests a transfer back to aircraft testing. He is pissed. Fucking Russians. By 1960 he is finally back flying experiment aircraft. He joins NASA in 1962. A picture of Khrushchev’s ass hangs in his locker. Fucking Russians

Frank Borman turned 90 this year. Most of us remember him as the leader of the first space craft to orbit the moon. Neil Armstrong would come next. But Frank proved you could get there, circle around it for a couple of days, and then come back all in one piece. He was a hero. A true American Hero.

At 90, people badger you to reminisce. NPR (who else would have remembered, eh?) interviewed him hoping (I assume) he would revel in the excitement of shooting into space, the thrill of being the first person to see the far side of the moon and relish the experience of being in space for six days, of seeing the first ‘Earthrise’ in history.

Actually, he said, “it was very boring.” In fact, he seemed to have had an awful time. The moon sucked. Borman described it as ” Devastation. Meteor craters. No color at all, just different shades of grey. I wouldn’t want to go there.” Wow, that would have surprised Neil Armstrong. Why didn’t Frank tell anyone about it? “Nobody asked”, he said. A sensible answer I guess but still, he could have at least told Armstrong not to get his hopes up.

Fuck the Russians!

To Borman, it was just a job. Fly a rocket to the moon and back. The Russians had never come close to doing anything like that and he wanted to be the guy to rub it in their faces. “I wanted to participate in beating the Soviets. But that’s the only thing that motivated me. Beating the damn Russians.” How about being in space, experiencing weightlessness? “Boring after 30 minutes”, he didn’t spend a second thinking about his answer. NASA asked him if he wanted to land on the moon in a subsequent Apollo mission but he turned them down. “No interest. Why would anyone want to do that?”

Well America’s idiot savant Elon Musk would. Actually he just wants to fly around the moon ($200K per ticket); it’s Mars he wants to land on. That’s where the idiot part comes in. Not only does he want to fly there, he wants to live there – in a big self-supporting city which would be part of a huge earthling settlement which would grow into the place humans would escape to when the earth is destroyed by climate change/nuclear catastrophe/unsustainable population growth/Donald Trump/whatever. He quips he plans to die on Mars. Well if he can figure out a way to get there, I am with him – he will probably die there. Luckily, we won’t have to wait long to see how he fares. The first Mars launch is scheduled for 2023. If Musk is aboard the thing – and how can he not be – he will arrive by the end of 2024.

It’s a longer trip so we have more in-flight movies. And beer.

The savant part of Musk built the Heavy Falcon rocket that lifts huge payloads into space and can recover its spent rocket stages by softly landing them on a target as small as Mamie’s dog Heidi. That is quite a trick. The Heavy Falcon is the most powerful rocket every built (take that you dirty Russkies) and SpaceX, Musk’s rocket company, has basically becomes NASA’s space travel outsourcer.

Musk is now working on the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). The BFR is the fucker that will take passengers to the moon and back (first flight already sold out) and then on to Mars. Yea it’s a big jump from a two day trip to the moon and a year’s trip to Mars. That’s when the idiot Musk pops back in. This whole moon trip thing was supposed to happen by now but, as usual, Musk is running late. 2020 is the new date. To the Moon Alice, to the Moon. And then on to Mars in 2023 three years after that! I can’t wait.

It is hard not to come back to Frank Borman’s opinion of space travel. Why in the name of Heidi the dog would you do this? A Moon trip for $200K? At least two years of your life wasted just to step foot on red dust?

They charge 200,000 dollar round trip; we only charge 150 thousand.  No assigned seats though. Bring your own food.

Maybe I am an old fogey. But what I like about space travel is that it could get me from New York City to London in 15 minutes. I’d pay good money for that. Who’s working on that angle? Richard Branson who owns Virgin Airlines, started his own rocket company, Virgin Galatic, twelve years ago to develop a rocket that could take a bunch of people 80 miles up above the earth’s atmosphere and then bring them down again a few minutes later. The aircraft could connect any two places in the world in 20 minutes or less. If done on a large enough scale to be affordable, it would change the world. Lunch in Paris, see a show in New York, back in time to hit the hay in Honolulu. But a couple of years ago, Branson dropped this dream. Now he wants to take people to the moon. An intercontinental rocket that can hold a hundred people sounds a whole lot more affordable, valuable and safer than one that can fly a dozen people to the moon and back.

I haven’t mentioned Jeff Bezos yet. He has rockets too. His goal is modestly similar to Branson’s – ferry people to the moon and back and maybe deliver some packages to the International Space Station along the way. But if Musk gets enough people to live on Mars, Bezos will find a way to get them their Prime deliveries.

I still just wish one of the loonies would figure out a way to get me to London in 15 minutes.

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