Written by: Uncle Sam
Here We Go Again!
The longer I am on this planet the more I have come to appreciate the wisdom of Solomon. He stated nearly 3000 years ago that “there is nothing new under the sun.” That statement is very befitting to the current situation in today’s worldwide space program.
I am old enough to remember the first space race that began in the late 1950’s and culminated in the United States winning out over the Soviet Union with Neil Armstrong’s momentus first steps on the Moon, followed a few years later by the unveiling of NASA’s brand new Space Shuttle program. The United States was king of the Space Hill.
My My, what a difference just a few years can make.
Now, just a scant 30 odd years later, the United States is talking severe budgetary cut-backs from NASA personnel and projects, the Space Shuttle program is becoming obsolete with nothing concrete on the horizon and Russia has taken on more and more responsibility for the International Space Station endeavor. China is also becoming a serious player in this space game of cards. Everything seems to be changing, but it is really all the same. Only the names of the players are new.
On the heels of the U.S. government’s proclamation of serious cutbacks to its space budget, Russia announced today that it has approved a nine-year government program to expand its space programs, backing the ongoing development of the new Clipper (Kliper) spacecraft as well as building Russia’s segment of the international space station.
What has happened?
Should the United States be concerned about these latest developments? Yes and no. Yes, because what is happening in space projects reflects the current mindset and trends in the American psyche. Even in the 60’s and 70’s when we lost Gus Grissom and his crew on the spacepad, or when John Glenn had a couple of close calls back on the old Mercury project, or even when Apollo 13 looked like it might never make it back home from its Moon mission; America still kept a positive can-do attitude about what it could accomplish with just the “RIGHT STUFF.” That philosophy seems to be losing ground these days. More and more naysayers and “we cannot possibly do that” kind of thinking appears to be at the control of the helm, and I find that quite disturbing.
Now to the No. It is probably a good thing that the United States is no longer viewed as the “only game in town” as it relates to space and voyaging out into that Final Frontier. More minds in play breeds greater innovation and possibilities. I welcome Russia’s committment to furthering their efforts and finances in trying to unlock the secrets of space and our universe. The same holds true for China and the European Union. If all of us spent more of our resources in space technology, then there will be less available for finding new ways to blow each other up.
The other good sign for the future of space travel and exploration is the recent introduction of the commercial-private sector into the mix. With these new companies becoming interested in forking over the much needed funds and brain-trust into the fold, the chances of “seeking out new life and new civilizations” and “boldly going where no one has gone before” will take giant leaps forward, because nothing spurs on progress like the possibility of financial gain and free enterprise.
I remain hopeful that one day we will venture forth off the confines of this one planet and spread out among the stars. I keep this hope, because, quite frankly, it is mankind’s only hope for survival into and beyond the 21st Century.