Fifty-plus years ago, a young man stood up in front of the American people and declared that we would put men on the moon. We did! Four years after the moon landing, the Space Shuttle program was approved.
The two men responsible for these huge steps could not have been more different if I’d created them for a piece of fiction. Former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Even though President Eisenhower originally approved funding for the Apollo program, history sees Kennedy as the driver behind putting men on the moon. Kennedy and Nixon did have at least one similarity. They both believed in the Space Program. It is sad that the leaders since then have not had the same vision or courage shown by leaders of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Funding has been cut to the point where, even if funding came through today, it would take nearly a decade for the U.S. to put a manned vehicle back into space. We have chosen to rely on Russia to ensure the safe travel of our brave astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The cost of which jumped 300% the day we announced the retirement of the space shuttles. In addition, 7,000 jobs were lost to the small towns that surround Cape Canaveral when the Shuttle program was cancelled. Thirst for human exploration and knowledge has driven us to this point. What will it take to move us to the next step? Substantial fiscal payback will most likely be needed to push Congress and the President off of top-dead-center and move them to act in support of NASA. Okay, enough politics, I’m trying to keep from entering into a rant.
When I was ten years old a man stepped onto the surface of the moon. To say I was excited would be an understatement. At eighteen, I visited the Kennedy Space Center for the first time and got to look inside rockets for the first time. I was impressed but, I still didn’t understand. Thirty-four years later, I went back. I watched first hand, as a rocket launched into space. I felt the rush of excitement and patriotism. I walked in the steps of the bravest men, in my opinion, who have ever walked the earth. My imagination was electrified by the sights and sounds of exploration. With the help of the Hubble Telescope, I saw images of the possibilities and the probabilities of other “earths’ being out there. Mathematically, it is almost certain!
If only we had a way to get there!
The past few months have renewed my belief in the U.S. Space Program. The men and women who work on these projects are the finest in the world. They are driven by an insatiable need to learn, to explore, to try, and to succeed. The benefits the program has provided humanity are irrefutable. The need for the people of Earth to find and learn about other planets could very well save us from ourselves.Will we find a way to safely travel into deep space? I have no doubt that it can and will be done.
I hope I get to see it happen in my lifetime.
What about you? If you had the opportunity to go into space, would you?