I have previously been critical of manned space exploration as being nothing more than extremely expensive political propaganda. A new history book recounts what Americans thought of the Apollo program and shows how it has taken decades for the propaganda to really saturate our culture, to the point that every American knows the name of the first man on the moon, and politicians speak of space exploration as though it were the obvious measure of a society's greatness. Thank Ford for state-run schools!
Many people see space exploration as part of a culture war. According to a review in the Economist, NASA's chief saw it as the flag-bearer for "Squareland", in its contest with "Potland". According to an editorial in Space Review, the contest was between rationalism and neo-romanticism. Unfortunately, space exploration never represented true rationality, but instead of the religion of rationalism, where the achievements of science are used to induce a mystical awe among the rabble and legitimize power relationships both within and between nations, as illustrated by both the USSR and post-war USA.