Saturday, January 30, 2010

No Return to the Moon (at least by the United States)

I was only an infant when man first set foot on the moon. I have no memories of that moment in history when everything became possible and science fiction became science. I have taught about that moment in history and how it inspired the world to reach for bigger and better things. How many different advances were made and how many jobs and careers had been launched right along with those Apollo missions. I remember telling my class that there were plans afoot to return to the moon and that they could expect to see this happen within the next 8 – 10 years baring any drastic cuts to NASA.

Well, here are the drastic cuts: That nixes the moon and the Space Shuttle. As for Mars – who knows?

I did pass along my excitement at the notion that private companies would now become major players in space travel. I discussed the X-Prize and Space Ship One and Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson and the VSS Enterprise and how a real and true revolution was going to be taking place in their lifetime. I just didn’t know that the revolution would be happening as quickly as it will be. When the Space Shuttle is done and over and mothballed our government expects private enterprise to take up the slack. This is, at once, a good thing (mostly) and a bad thing. Private industry will open up the market much wider than NASA ever could hope to. Need a satellite placed in orbit? Virgin Galactic could do that in between passenger trips. How about repairs to the Hubble telescope? Sir Richard could probably put those repairmen just where they need to be. I wonder, however, what corporate entity is going to represent the United States on the International Space Station? The hatch opens and the contingent from the United States are all wearing Red Bull or Monster Energy Drinks or Viagra tee shirts and hats. As they say in some circles, “That’s the weak sauce.” And, Gentle Reader, THAT is the weak sauce.

If I could go back in time I would have told my class that Wall Street investment bankers, American car manufacturers and credit card company bailouts would prove to be more important than their futures. I would have told them that they should really consider learning Japanese or Chinese if they wanted to be in on the lion’s share of technological advancement in air and space technologies. Oh sure, I would have encouraged them in math and science and foster an interest in the possibilities; I would have just recalculated their aspirations. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.” I would have set those dreams a little lower. Really, where do I think I am, Tokyo – Hong Kong?

Oh, if I could but turn back the clock.

Look, I understand. It is just not that important to us here in the States. Why would it be? We have it all. We have been there and done that. Exploration, advancement, and goals for the future - our overtaxed attention spans just can’t handle that amount of pressure. Our standards in education have sealed the deal. We are a service society. We do not produce. Those days are gone. Production is now in the hands of those who have put it at a premium, those who invested in their futures by training the next generation to actually want to be engineers. Humanity will return to the moon. It is as sure as the tides. Here in the United States of America - well, we’ll be able to watch it happen on our flat screens. I just hope that they don’t have to preempt “American Idol” to do so. Our sensibilities just couldn’t take it.

Note from the author… While writing this blog I encountered another little article from BBC. It is about how some states (currently California) are attempting to protect the Apollo 11 landing site from other countries that have active plans to go to the moon… unlike us:

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