One giant waste of time?

Thursday 22 February 2007

Research into the darker side of space exploration, which views the 1969 moon landing as ‘$35 billion ego trip’, has been published by a historian at the University of St Andrews.

Gerard DeGroot, a Professor of Modern History at St Andrews, describes the historical Neil Armstrong landing as ‘a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind’, and a result of NASA developing an unhealthy obsession with putting men in space, despite its purpose being ‘as desolate and dry as lunar dust’.

Professor DeGroot’s new book ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ reveals how NASA cashed in on the Americans’ thirst for heroes in an age of discontent, while spending vast sums not just on the mission, but on a PR machine aimed at dissuading any who questioned their motives and glossing over the darker truth. The expose tells the ‘untold story’ of space exploration and how a nation ‘went mad’ in its quest to beat the Russians in landing the first man on the moon.

Professor DeGroot said, “For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck. Every boy dreamed of being an astronaut; every girl dreamed of marrying one.

“But despite the best efforts of a generation of scientists, the almost foolhardy heroics of the astronauts, and 35 billion dollars, the moon turned out to be a place of ‘magnificent desolation’, to use Buzz Aldrin’s words – a sterile rock of no purpose to anyone.”

Though initially Professor DeGroot began on a positive note, researching the social history of ‘a good wholesome story’, his research took a dark turn when it became apparent that there was more to the myth-making historical event than meets the eye.

Indeed, his research caused him to conclude that the space exploration programme was led by a dark underbelly involving ‘a gang of cynics, demagogues, scheming politicians and corporations’ who amassed enormous power – and profits – by exploiting the fear of what the Russians might do in space.

He explained, “The moon mission was sold as a race which America could not afford to lose. Landing on the moon, it was argued, would be good for the economy, for politics, and for the soul. It could even win the Cold War.”

Though he concedes that the effort devoted to the space programme was indeed ‘magnificent and its cultural impact was profound’, the researcher describes the American space programme as being ‘caught in a state of purposeless wandering’ ever since Neil Armstrong descended from Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969.

“The great tragedy is that so much effort and expense was devoted to a small step that did virtually nothing for mankind,” he concluded.

Dark Side of the Moon is published by Jonathan Cape. The publication co-incides with the 50th anniversary of the start of the space race, when the USSR sent Spuknik 1 into orbit.



Born in California, Gerard DeGroot is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews. He has written ten books on various aspects of twentieth-century history, most recently The Bomb: A Life, a history of nuclear weapons which won the 2004 RUSI Westminster Medal for Military Literature

PROFESSOR DEGROOT IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON 01334 462898, email [email protected]

Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-

Ref: Giant waste of time 220207.doc

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