It’s kinda sad to have to write this, especially after my last post talking about First Contact Day’s pre fiftieth anniversary. But, what else can I do especially after reading this article over the weekend.
I was born the same year that we had our last manned mission to the moon. I was in grade school when the shuttle program was gearing up for its first launch. I remember getting little books at school (I assume they were from NASA) that told of the promise of the shuttle program and where it would lead. I read of moon bases where the shuttle would land and take off again back to earth. Moon bases that would be a weigh station on the way to Mars. Moon bases where people would actually work and live to further our manned exploration into the solar system.
Now, that promise has been dashed as the NASA chief has ruled out manned flights to the moon in his lifetime, at the very least. That pretty much means mine as well. I find it sad that we have fallen as far as we have with manned exploration of space. I find it more than a little ironic that the nation we beat to the moon, is now the only way we have to actually send people into space right now.
I also find it a bit disturbing that we have private corporations talking about the moon. I’m not overly sure how that will work. Who do they pay to buy mining rights or will they just be able to go there and set up shop? There’s all kinds of questions that need answers, but should we allow the moon to be a for-profit venture. What will happen when NASA or some other country for that matter, goes to the moon for scientific reasons. Will they have to rent land from corporations just to visit?
On one hand I don’t care how we get out there, because I believe we need to be out there. But I also don’t believe our space exploration should be limited to corporations. Our exploration of space should be a more united front. If not a multinational partnership, then at least a national one. Our exploration should be based more on human interest, than corporate interest.
I give NASA a lot of credit for what they’ve done with probes, telescopes and robots. They’ve done incredible work with all that. But, it’s once again time to man-up and get serious about manned exploration. They need to kick their PR up a notch. They need to spark, much like JFK when he promised a man on the moon within decade. They need to find someone with charisma and the passion for space exploration to get up and ignite people’s interest in space once again.
We need to recapture that spirit of exploration that prompted past generations to cross oceans. The kind of spirit that got us to the moon in the first in place. The kind of spirit that has died down to an ember for our current time. It’s been over fifty years since a human set foot on the moon. We’ve wasted a lot of time not building on that success. It’s now time to turn that around. To quote John F. Kennedy, “ We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” I add that we need to do this not just for the reasons above but, because humanity has much more potential than this one little planet can hold.
Originally published April 9, 2013