Boldly Going Again

Why Mars and the Moon Make Sense

I saw Mars last night, a tiny spark of crimson in an expanse of frosty black. It’s tough to miss. First red planet to the right.

I saw the moon too, half-crecented and fully lit. You can’t miss the moon, either.

We have touched both now, one with human hand, the other with the best technology human hands can create.

We need to do more.

Mourning in America
In late January the NASA family weathered what refer to as “dark week,” that span from January 27 through February 1 that marks the anniversaries of Apollo 1 , Challenger , and Columbia.

There is another loss that is mourned year-round at NASA: the end of the moon program.

Political pressure led to the demise of Apollo just as lunar missions were becoming a way of life. Nearly every single former astronaut expresses nothing but frustration over the “beached whale” state of our moon hardware. If the moon program’s funding had not been cut, the mighty Saturn V rockets not silenced, we would probably have been on Mars well before 2000.

The return
Last week, President Bush proposed an end to this madding “in-between” phase of interplanetary travel that has occupied my entire lifespan. In 2010, the space shuttle system, having performed its tasks so long and so well, will be retired.

“We choose to go to the moon,” President John F. Kennedy said in 1961. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept….”

Going long in a world short on a lot
That’s very nice, John, but? why? Why bother with rockets and rovers and countdowns when we have poverty and crime and abuse here on Earth? Is it even ethical to go about building a lunar base when so many in downtown Philly don’t even have decent housing?

Did Columbus wait until Spain was a utopia before setting sail?

The conservative speaks for government
Look, nobody hates big government more than I do. I private charities; I do not a big fat entitlement program. From my point of view, pouring money into entitlements doesn’t boost our technological edge, improve our national defense, contribute to our body of scientific knowledge, or help the economy. The space program has done all these things.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration occupies about 1.5% of the national budget; entitlement programs take up much, much more. We could funnel every single one of our tax dollars to eliminating poverty, and yet it would still plague us.

What the President proposed earlier this month was a shifting of already-allotted funds away from our aging space shuttle fleet, and towards a new era of interplanetary travel. The structure of our federal government lends itself to the undertaking of such an ambitious program.

Florida is a fine state, but we’re not going to pull this off on our own.

Back to the wonders?
Is God a space fan? I can’t say for sure. He made it, though? and I’d sure like to learn more about what He put out there.