Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rant #7: The Downfall of Space Exploration

As the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from its Florida launch pad on Monday on an 11-day mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, does anybody out there get the chills, is proud to be an American, and will remember this day forever?

The only reason that I ask is that when I was a kid, when our space exploration was at its zenith, I felt those emotions when we would send astronauts into space. It is an emotion I doubt anyone feels today.

When we reached the moon in 1969, I think most people thought that outer space was our oyster: we could go anywhere in space, and would do so during the next decade. Well, the 1970s started out fine, and we had several more missions to the moon.

Then the whole thing seemingly stopped. I know there were public outcries about the money spent to go into space (and there still are), but everything basically came to a halt by the middle of the decade, and really has not picked up again.

During the past 30 years, the rest of the world has caught up to us in space flight, and we have had numerous cooperative missions. We have had the space shuttle, and we have had numerous unmanned missions.

And yes, we have had accidents — far too many.

At least public relations-wide, I don’t think too many people have gotten too excited over NASA’s recent missions. Several of our past presidents have given out some weak mandates for further space travel — didn’t the younger Bush put out some type of mandate about reaching Mars during his second term? — but I don’t see much making anyone too excited.

President Obama is a trailblazer. What I would love to see is for him to be a trailblazer for space exploration. Like John F. Kennedy, make a firm mandate about revisiting the moon — and also about going onto Mars — and make the powers that be stick to this mandate.

In 1969, our country and the world stood as one as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. It can be done again, and not only can it be done, it should be done. The benefits far outweigh what some consider to be the excesses of such missions.


  1. The problem to me is not the money involved, as I strongly favor a well funded space program, it's that money is spent much more efficiently on unmanned space projects. The goal to me is the accumulation of scientific knowledge, and much more can be learned by not focusing on all the work and expense, let's say, needed to send men to Mars. The space shuttle has never accomplished much in terms of expanding knowledge, particularly compared to the unmanned missions to Mars, etc.

  2. You make some good points, but I still stand by what I said: nothing will grab the public's attention until we once again start sending astronauts back to the moon and eventually to Mars. I just believe that the general public does not get hyped up about unmanned explorations, although they obviously have their benefits.

    And yes, I do agree that the space shuttle has not accomplished what it perhaps set out to do.

    We have to rally people behind the space program, similar to what was done 40 years ago. We have not done that yet.



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