Friday, July 17, 2009


Peggy Noonan phones it in this week -- today's column is a lazy collection of odds and sods. She leads with another ode to "steely-eyed rocket men" -- yes, she uses the phrase again, as she did six years ago in a praise-hymn to George W. Bush -- but this time she's talking about literal rocket men: the astronauts of the moon-landing era. Her point is that Americans today are too damn self-involved, not like those guys:

Something about the steely-eyed rocket men of the Mercury and Apollo programs: They weren't criers. Now, on TV every day as people remember some trauma or triumph, they stop as if on cue -- they know this is expected of them -- and weep. They think this shows sincerity and sensitivity. But they feel too much about their struggles.... The men who took the moon will be all over TV the next few days. I bet they don't cry as they remember "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed." How moving their dry eyes will be.

Would it have been too much for Noonan to check her facts and determine that one of the best-known astronauts actually might cry on TV, or come close?

... Surprisingly, [Buzz] Aldrin's reservations about describing what it's like to kick up moon dust for an hour and a half, as he did on July 20, 1969, are in marked contrast to his willingness to discuss -- free of charge -- the dark side of his life: his struggles with depression and alcoholism, his two failed marriages, his difficult relationship with his father, and the tragedy of his mother (born Marion Moon), who killed herself shortly before the lunar mission because she did not think she could handle her son's imminent fame.

Yes, Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, is on a huge book tour for a memoir with the not-so-steely-eyed title Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon ("Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home." --Vanity Fair). In the story I just quoted, he's testy when talking about Neil Armstrong, who got to walk on the moon first, and he says he doesn't want to talk about the moon landing anymore "unless I'm appropriately compensated." He may not cry, but it sure sounds as if he's a bundle of raw emotions.

But Noonan assumed her assertion was too good to check.

Oh, and then there's Edgar Mitchell:

Apollo 14's Mitchell was the biggest surprise of all. He stunned most people upon his return when he revealed that during the mission he had quietly conducted experiments in extrasensory perception with two friends back home -- trying to send them mental images from space. He later founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, Calif., to study what some refer to as the paranormal -- and what he insists is nothing of the kind. "Nothing is para once you know what's going on," he counters. "For some people, it's normal." Mitchell says it was his lunar journey that opened his eyes to something larger in the universe -- what he refers to as his "ah-ha experience."

Here's an interview with Mitchell, in which he talks about those ESP experiences, recounts his association with Uri Geller, and tells us this:

My biggest work is developing further the understanding of the quantum hologram and how it works in relation to the brain. The real enigma we don't have a handle on yet is the psychokinetic effect. It has to do with intentionality and the quantum hologram, but exactly how that functions physically is not obvious to us. The perception of non-local information like ESP is easy to explain through the quantum hologram; you are just picking up the information from another person. Telepathy is just information coming in; psychokinesis, just information going out. But the material deformation of things is a little more mysterious. It takes energy to bend a ring. We can understand healing; you are a sick person, and I give you the information and your body heals itself. But how to move a ring is a different problem.

Wow. Very steely-eyed.

No comments: