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Goodnight Moon - Charles Homans

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But the United States in 2010 feels like a nation that no longer responds to Sputnik moments. The American exceptionalism that Kennedy nurtured as a goad to accomplishment has become a cocoon. Kennedy once lamented that the Soviets’ primacy in space had left the “psychological feeling in the world that the United States has reached maturity, that maybe our high noon has passed … and that now we are going into the long, slow afternoon.” In retrospect, he had it backward. It is the moon landing, not Sputnik or Gagarin, that haunts us. It is the point from which we measure our descent.