SPACEFLIGHT APPROACHES ITS HENRY FORD ERA

In 2007, Time magazine proclaimed the Ford Model T to be one of the “50 Worst Cars of All Time.”

Pandering to the Luddite crowd, Pulitzer-winning auto critic Dan Neil wrote,

“[T]he Model T did everything that the history books say: It put America on wheels, supercharged the nation’s economy and transformed the landscape in ways unimagined when the first Tin Lizzy rolled out of the factory. Well, that’s just the problem, isn’t it? The Model T… conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers’ boots. And by the way, with its blacksmithed body panels and crude instruments, the Model T was a piece of junk, the Yugo of its day.”

Neil fails to note that the automobile dramatically reduced pollution, eliminating the vast quantities of horse manure that were piling up in city streets at the turn of the 20th Century. At that time, an estimated 200,000 horses walked the streets of New York, producing 4,000,000 pounds of manure and 50,000 gallons of urine per day. It was not uncommon to see dead horses rotting in the street. In the summer time, dried manure turned to dust which choked the air. By 1908, an estimated 20,000 New Yorkers died each year from diseases spread by manure. Enter the internal combustion engine — and a literal breath of fresh air.

The Model T and its reviled offspring not only reduced pollution, spurred economic growth, and sped urban transportation, they also improved safety. The fatal accident rate for horse-drawn vehicles in the early 20th Century was about seven times that of automobiles in the modern era.

Read more: Spaceflight Approaches Its Henry Ford Era — Citizens in Space.

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