Magazine March 22, 2021, Issue

The Age of Space Reconnaissance

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on February 15. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Business, not the public sector, is leading the way

Wherever profit leads us, to every sea and shore
For love of gain the wide world’s harbors we explore.
  — Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679)

Once Westerners were explorers — daredevils driven by greed, faith, and curiosity to (as they used to say on the original Star Trek) “seek out new life and new civilizations.” In what the historian J. H. Parry called the “Age of Reconnaissance,” Europeans and their descendants were animated with a “fierce competitive pugnacity” out of which the modern world emerged.

Today’s “innovators” in social-media firms, with their cult of surveillance, may seem pale in comparison, but

This article appears as “A New Age of Reconnaissance” in the March 22, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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