History and culture take a back seat this week to NCAA basketball, with the conference tourneys concluding today and tomorrow and bracket mania beginning Sunday with the selection show. Cold War fans have something to look forward to on Monday, though, as PBS's American Experience looks at the USA-USSR space competition, specifically the race for the moon. In this area, it airs Monday at 9 pm.
The space race has always been interesting, in that it launched the US's massive math-science-foreign language initiative designed to catch us up to the Soviet Union, which was perceived to be far(and unacceptably)ahead in these areas. I personally owe a lot to Khrushchev et al because I got through grad school with some of the last of the "catch up to the USSR" funding. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have learned that the Soviet space program was part of Khrushchev's efforts to win the allegiance of the Soviet people: he knew he couldn't rule through fear and coercion like his predecessor, Stalin, so he had to have some high-profile, attention-grabbing initiatives in addition to tangible improvements in people's living conditions. He had mixed successes in the latter, but he and the Soviet people certainly rejoiced in the successes of their cosmonauts, especially Iurii Gagarin
Anyway, I'll stop thinking about my "horses" in the tourney--Georgetown, Indiana, WSU--to take in the race to the moon, even though I know how it ended.