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This article is written from a Democratic point of view.
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Economic Viewpoint: 68% Left
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The lack of leadership extends beyond just space exploration - it affects the economy, climate, and military.
It was 50 years ago when an American test pilot, Joseph A. Walker flew his hypersonic aircraft, the X-15, at nearly Mach 6 into space, becoming weightless for five minutes. Walker had already earned his astronaut’s wings on two other flights. In fact, eight pilots in all would fly this aircraft into space, becoming astronauts and then landing on a runway.
This was in the 1960s when going to the moon was not impossible. Today, the country that sent people to the moon in 1969 has to pay the Russians to take them into space. The country where pilots rode hypersonic aircraft into space in 1962 is behind both Russia and China in hypersonic technology.
A country that built the A-12, a Mach 3 fighter that fired a hypersonic missile in 1962 does not have hypersonic weapons today, nor does it have a single stage to orbit aircraft. What happened? Why is the US about to put people on the end of a giant fuel-air bomb, light it up and call that space transportation?
No offense, SpaceX and ULA, but your technology is old news. The technology in the hands of the US government during the 1960s far exceeds that of Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic is doing something similar to the X-15 except without the hypersonic speeds. The only reason SpaceX, ULA, and Virgin Galactic are around trying to reinvent legacy technology is that someone dropped the ball.
That ball dropper is the U.S. Congress and the President. Consider that we had the Clinton Mars Initiative canceled and replaced with the Bush Moon Initiative, which was canceled and replaced with the Obama Mars Initiative, which was also canceled and replaced with the Trump Moon Initiative.
This is not political leadership; it is sabotage! It is this kind of leadership that had the US building technology it used in the 1950s. Yes, rockets and rocket planes are being updated, but this is nothing revolutionary. Revolutionary aerospace technology is so 1950s.
Big technology projects in an age when Congress replaces budgets with stop-gap spending bills are nearly impossible. Presidents who cannot provide the leadership required to get a job done cannot lead the United States into a century where the transcendent threat is global warming.
If we can’t utilize the technology we already have, how are we going to meet the challenge of stopping global warming? At the moment when the world needs US geopolitical and technological leadership, no one is home. No one has been home for a long time.
The real problem? The people up in Washington.