Reduce Federal Budget – Cut Space Program
By James Donahue
I have been a strong advocate of the U. S. space program ever since the Russian launch of Sputnik prompted President
John F. Kennedy to challenge Americans to send men to the moon. Those were the best of times in America, when the cost of
such a mission was something that fit within the national budget, when people had good jobs and were willing to pay the cost
of such an adventure.
And let’s face it, we were convinced in those days that Russia and the Communist world was our enemy and we could
not allow them to get any kind of jump on us. And conquering space was an important military objective for both Russia and
the United States.
We accomplished our goal. We successfully sent men to and from the Moon, launched some amazing satellite technology
including a super telescope that peers far out into the galaxies, and sent missions to do close-up studies of every planet
in our solar system. And we can say without question that the space program technology has changed our everyday life in ways
a lot of people now take for granted. Everything from the invention of a powdered drink called Tang to the modern cell phone
and trans-communication systems and the GPS devices that guide aircraft, ships and our personal cars, all stem from this technology.
Indeed, we can present a lot of strong arguments for maintaining our space program. But in these hard economic times,
with the bandits running off with all of the cash from the federal vault, is it practical to carry on any longer? Is this
not something we can sacrifice in the interest of feeding, housing and clothing the nation’s poor? Which do we count
as more important . . . a new and faster operating computer on that office desk or giving aid and comfort to our neighbors
in desperate need?
Times have really changed in America since those wonderful years when President Kennedy promoted so much pride in everybody.
His murder was the beginning of a slide down a slippery slope that has brought us to the place we are today. We cannot pretend
that we have the resources to continue thinking about sending men into space.
The very sheen behind our space adventures got dull after we committed ourselves to a cooperative construction of a
multi-billion dollars manned international space station in 1998. We have been committed to this program ever since. We have
literally worn out our shuttles servicing it. While various scientific experiments have been conducted on the station, and
we have succeeded in keeping it manned even as construction continues, the payback is largely an unknown.
Much of the research on the space platform has been to prepare NASA for future ventures back to the Moon, on to Mars
and possibly beyond. But under the changing circumstances, is that something we really want to invest our tax dollars in?
NASA moved long ago from a public agency to a military-controlled government operation. Everything planned, constructed
and used by NASA and the military space program is handled by private contractors and have multi-billion dollar price tags.
And everything ends up “over budget.” Thus we can be sure that the cost of just returning to the Moon will be
something we no longer can afford.
Why would we want to go to the Moon or Mars? True, there is a military advantage to getting back to the Moon before
China or some other country does. We have the technology now to literally destroy portions of Earth with advanced new weaponry
fired from the Moon. We also have the technology to destroy the world by planting enough explosives on the Moon to blow it
up. The next team to get there with that technology could hold the world hostage by mere threat.
That kind of thinking involves world military conquest. It is sick. It offers a black doomsday scenario that should
not be our future. There is nothing to be gained by it for anybody.
The only other reason we are interested in sending humans off to other planets is to determine if we have a place to
escape to if and when our planet no longer can sustain life. And that, coupled with science fiction shows like Star Trek,
is giving us a false sense of security. We already know that we will not find a habitable planet to live on in this solar
system unless it is artificially constructed. Such a venture, however, does not seem feasible. Imagine the cost of building
such a space colony at today’s prices!
It seems much more reasonable to consider shutting down the entire space program and focusing the money, instead, on
green technology that will be Earth friendly. Why not spend the $11.1 billion earmarked for the current space program to save
our planet? It makes more sense than trying to find new ways to blow up our planet or escape from it.