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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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The United States used to be about big things: building huge dams to generate electricity, a complex interstate highway system to take us from here to there so much faster and maybe even more comfortably….and, yes, even going to the Moon.
What happened to all that, especially when it comes to exploring outer space?
Too often today, critics like to point out that unmanned probes can explore Mars efficiently and at less cost than with humans.
Strictly by the numbers, I suppose this is correct. But the same thing could have been said about the Moon.
But we still went there, nonetheless.
At the time, we had this outside driver, being competition with the Soviet Union.
We don’t have that today, although how embarrassing would it be if somewhere down the road the Chinese decide to make the trip ahead of us?
There ought to be a more compelling reason, and that is exploring our solar neighborhood ourselves just for the sake of it.
We ought to care both about the science to had, but also the grand sense of human adventure.
Unfortunately, our space program sort of hit a pinnacle with the International Space Station, but really has been fading ever since.
Americans can’t even reach orbit anymore without hitching a ride with the Russians. How humiliating.
And really the blame for this has been bipartisan. Whenever the need for grandiose speechifying about the future of US human spaceflight is called for, presidents of both parties have been adequately grandiose–as long as the heavy lifting, and the bill–all come due on the next guy’s watch.
And, no, the answer is not commercial spaceflight. President Kennedy didn’t contract off the moonshot to Boeing, and neither is going to Mars and beyond.
There are just some projects that are of national scope and national pride….too big to be taken on by one corporation and too big to be owned by one corporation.
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