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Man on the Moon

Of Course We Should!

by Jonathan Wilson
January 14, 2004

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Man on the Moon_Jonathan Wilson-Of Course We Should! I have written about illegal immigration, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Homeland Security, and the War on Iraq. Those are issues we all should be aware of and review critically and thoughtfully. But if you really want to get my blood pumping, if you really want to push my buttons, tell me that you don't see the point in manned space flight and exploration. You will realize that if I have expressed my opinions strongly on other issues, that was all posture for rhetorical effect.

It is being touted by administration spokespersons that George Bush will unveil new goals for NASA. These goals, reportedly, will include a permanent moon station and piloted expeditions to Mars. This will cost upwards of a trillion dollars over the life of the mission, and is being criticized as election politicking.

So what? It is self-evident that human forays into near space (our solar system) are worthwhile, for the same reason that climbing Mount Everest is worthwhile. Of course, comes the argument, we are not paying tax dollars for Mount Everest expeditions, at which point I politely, and with my best pastoral manners, ask the person making the argument to shut up.

If it were ONLY as worthwhile as climbing the world's tallest mountains, it would still be worthwhile. However, there are other benefits: The research poured into the development of a space fleet will reap various technological benefits for the earth-bound. New propulsion technologies, new cooling technologies, continuing innovation in telecommunications.

In terms of earth defense, face it, our system is filled with giant objects hurtling through space, too many for us to keep track of or discover. The sooner we develop competent solar system flight, the sooner we will be able to refine our flight protocols and develop scenarios for the deflection of wayward asteroids.

If you really think this is so far-fetched, you are deceiving yourself. Just because we are complacent about problems, whether those problems are disappearing rain forests, genocide in Africa or the asteroid belt, does not mean those problems do not exist. Why wait until an asteroid is an imminent danger to wake up to the need for interplanetary competence?

Between my tax dollars funding the present dysfunctions of a mal-ordered society, and funding the future, guess what, I am all for funding the future. Yes, I said it. And I am the pastor of a church, no less! To state it positively, I believe it is morally imperative to make the future our priority as a nation. That priority can and should include a vision for competent space travel.

Let us end corporate welfare and subsidy, and funnel that money toward the space program. Let us lift ourselves off these rocks at the moral reefs of security and entitlement, where we have floundered for decades, and return to the risk-taking that once defined the American spirit.

In religious language, why don't we show a little less fear and a little more faith? When did it happen that the pursuit of happiness became the pursuit of the status quo?

I dream of a day when NASA will become a regulatory agency, certifying ships and coordinating launch schedules for scores of enterprising space-travel businesses. When we have the competence, the skills, the technology, we can get government out of the civilian space-travel business, if Congress must insist.

Until then, space is a goal we can reach together. Space exploration can be an achievement of the people, by the people, for the people, in part, at least, to secure a better Earth for our children and their children. If you disagree with President Bush about everything else, at least, please, see the wisdom in this vision. It is not too early to think about the future.

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