And I’m not, but this should be a reason for massive public outrage. And it is obviously not. What am I talking about?
On December 3 (plans subject to change) NASA plans to launch Space Shuttle Discovery for the last time. 2011 will bring us the last planned flights of Atlantis and Endeavour. Now is this a bad thing? Not really. The shuttles were obsolete quite a while ago. And while they deserve to be revered for their status as the first re-usable, manned, and reliable space exploration vehicles; they need to be replaced with designs that would be safer and more economical. President Bush thought so. In his “Vision for Space Exploration” the plans were to keep the STS (space transportation system) shuttles in operation until 2010 and the completion of the International Space Station. Then they would be retired in favor of “Project Constellation” and its Orion space module and Aeries rockets. That would lead to another moon landing around 2020, and start us on our way to Mars.
That was the plan anyway. And it was indeed a grand vision. A lunar base as the starting point for missions to Mars and beyond. Skyhooks (or Space Elevators) first on the moon and then for Earth to reduce the cost and effort of launching materials and crews. The U.S.A. would plant the first flag on Mars and then her crew would return home safely like winged victory itself…
Or not, apparently it costs too much.
Listeners to this station and its talk show hosts seem to have many problems with our current President. And trust me, I hear about it every day from the folks that call in and have some kind of complaint. In some way or another, it’s President Obama’s fault. But you know what I NEVER ONCE heard a complaint about? The Obama Administration’s 2011 budget calls for the cancelation of the Project Constellation. I hear complaints about the health care overhaul. I don’t think that the “Obamacare” legislation is the right way to go, but the former system was terrible. Hard working middle class families were being bankrupted every day because of the cost of health care, and insurance was a joke. I heard complaints about the election and conspiracy theories about Obama’s eligibility to be President. Sore losers much? At least he was born in this country and did prove it. His opponent could not claim the same. John McCain was born in Panama. I didn’t think any less of him for it, and so logically could not hold an unsubstantiated claim against Obama against him either.
But canceling Project Constellation and bringing to a halt America’s dominance in space exploration? That makes me less proud to be an American than I was at the start of 2010. I still believe that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. But that feeling will suffer a blow every time we have to hold out our thumb and let Ivan give us a lift to the ISS so we can service our satellites to spy on Russia. China’s space program is on track to land on the moon. Yeah we got there first, but Former President Bush saw the moon as the first step toward Mars. And he was right. Are we just going to let China take Mars from us? Well good for them if they do. When it came time to put up or shut up in the space race… well we seem to be shutting up.
And we don’t seem to care about it. I subscribe to an internet magazine “The Escapist” that focuses on videogames and basically nerd-culture in general. Check it out at ESCAPISTMAGAZINE.COM
. This week’s issue is all about the closing of the shuttle program and what it meant to those of us who grew up wanting to be astronauts and travel the stars. I was a member of the “Young Astronaut Program” at the Kansas Cosmosphere when I was a kid. I remember every moment. My generation’s faith in space exploration was shaken to the core in January of 1986 when I and hundreds of thousands of other school children watched live on the TV wheeled in from the AV closet as the Shuttle Challenger exploded right in front of our eyes. In his national address to the country after the accident, President Reagan quoted the poet John Gillespie Magee Jr. when he said, “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.” That chokes me up to this very day. At the memorial service for the Challenger’s crew 3 days later my belief in the importance of space exploration was restored when the same great man said, “Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain.” These days it seems that I might have been 1 of only a few that took that as a challenge and a promise. A promise to the fallen that we would not hide behind our previous accomplishments and with tail between our legs “take our ball and go home.” We would rise up, expand our frontiers, and say to a cold and uncaring universe “WE ARE HERE.” “There is nothing the human mind and the American spirit of freedom and ingenuity cannot accomplish.”
Steve ends every McIntosh Report with a quote. I’ll do so this time as well. This is directed at everyone who does not think that space exploration is important, and should be vetoed to save money. It’s from an episode of Babylon 5 written by J. Michael Straczynski. A show that co-starred Jerry Doyle, the host of a talk show KNSS used to air.
“Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes…[and] all of this…all of this…was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars.”