Bush says “I need some space”
Space: the expensive frontier.
United States President George W. Bush’s recent announcement
about American plans to build a permanent base on the moon,
with an eye towards an eventual manned flight to Mars, has
brought some positive exposure to the space program almost
a year after the space shuttle Columbia exploded, killing its
The obvious comparison is to John F. Kennedy’s promise
to put an American on the moon by the end of the 1960s, though
a cynic might say Bush is just trying to look like a strong
leader during an election year and is inviting comparison to
JFK. Heck, Bush is already from a famed political family and
narrowly won an election; he’s just a few affairs with
starlets and an unfortunate run-in with a grassy knoll away
from being outed as the latest distant Kennedy cousin and developing
an exaggerated Massachusetts accent.
But anyway, I’ll be generous and say Dubya is merely
being ambitious, since this plan is longterm enough that it
will only happen after Bush leaves office. American taxpayers,
however, are the ones who could be facing the effects of this
decision for a long time. In order to build moon bases and
shuttles capable of going to Mars, it’s going to cost
a lot more than the $15.5 billion that the American government
currently spends on NASA.
This issue of “why now” is probably the most pressing
in regards to the space program, since nobody questions that
space exploration is a noble and important pursuit. I think
we all had that “I wanna be an astronaut” phase,
though in my case it was motivated by the fact that Superman
was from space, so space was cool. Ah, youthful logic.
In the ’60s, however, the space race was more urgent.
The U.S. felt they had to beat the Soviets to the moon as a
result of Cold War pride. In 2004, however, there is no competing
superpower with a space program anywhere near the equal of
the States. China is perhaps the closest thing to the Soviet
Union version 2.0 (now with a billion people and a big-ass
wall!), but their space program is years away from the Russians,
let alone the Americans.
Space may have the Star Trek street cred as the final frontier,
but it appears as though we still have many frontiers to cross
here on Earth, such as solving problems in education, health,
poverty and the environment. Future NASA missions are certainly
important, but the U.S. needs to clean up some domestic problems
first before it gets off on Mars.