From Fort Sumter to the Moon

More

Today, April 12th is most likely to be notable as the day most procrastinators get around to starting their taxes. But this day also has a significant place in history. For in the early hours of two different April 12th mornings, 150 and 50 years ago today, the opening volleys of two different wars were launched.

The Civil War was an attempt to hold onto a lifestyle of the past. The space race was an effort to control the world of the future.

On April 12, 1861, the opening shots of the American Civil War were fired by Confederate soldiers on Ft. Sumter in South Carolina. Exactly 100 years later, the first human shot in the Cosmic Cold War conflict known as the space race was fired by the Soviet Union as it launched Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin into space.

The weaponry and goals were different, of course. Cannons versus rocket engines -- which represents a staggering advancement in technology in just 100 years, in and of itself. But in many ways, the Civil War was an attempt by the Confederacy to hold onto a lifestyle and world of the past. The space race was an effort to control the world of the future.

The Civil War was more bloody, of course. But make no mistake about it -- the huge amounts of money and effort that both the Soviet Union and the United States poured into their space programs would not have been invested there if control of space weren't seen as a critical military goal for both countries.

On the other hand, it's possible to see the firing of a rocket carrying the first human into space as an example of some of the better things we can do with technology, rather than simply using it to fire bullets and cannonballs at each other. The best and the worst that humans can rise or sink to ... all connected to an object fired in the early morning hours, and commemorated on the same calendar day, 100 years apart.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lane Wallace is a pilot and adventure writer. She is the author of Surviving Uncertainty: Taking a Hero's Journey.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In