When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon in 1969, it was a public spectacle like no other, capturing the imagination of the world and fulfilling a centuries-old dream. That landing, and the lunar landings that followed between 1969 and 1972, represented the quintessential accomplishment of the first 50 years of the space age and seemed to confirm the American ideal of limitless progress and expansion.
In After Apollo, Roger D. Launius, Senior Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, investigates the cultural significance of the moon landings from the vantage of a post-modern, post-cold war world. Launius examines all aspects of the Apollo Project: the mythology of the astronaut in American culture, the importance of lunar science, the American public's memory of the moon landings, and more. He considers how differing cultural, generational, economic, and ethnic backgrounds affect the way we view the moon landings, and how the landings in turn influenced America's view of itself and its place in the world. The Apollo flights clearly fit into--and bolstered--the master narrative of American exceptionalism and triumphalism. But Launius also examines three counter narratives: the Left's objection that the enormous sums of money devoted to space exploration could have been better spent on social programs; the Right's view of Apollo as another tax-and-spend government boondoggle; and the moon-landing deniers' contention that the whole thing was faked as part of a nefarious conspiracy to attain world domination.
Drawing on the literature of memory as well as extensive research into contemporary culture, After Apollo offers an insightful and enduringly relevant appraisal of the lunar landings and their place in American history.
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Roger D. Launius is Senior Curator in the Division of Space History at the National Air and Space Museum. He is the author of many books, including Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars (2009), Atlas of Space Exploration (2009), and Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (2008).
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