Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Man on the Moon

I can't seem to help myself. If there's one thing that still kicks my imagination and optimism for mankind into high gear it's the thought of space exploration.

Perhaps it was all that sci-fi I've read and watched over the years.

Or perhaps it's that as a child of the '60's my early childhood was bathed in the grainy glow and staticky radio of TV shots from space, and in 1969 those pictures from the moon.

And that first stunning picture of the big blue marble earth.

It may well be no undersatement that much of my perspective on life has been since informed by the spectacle of the stunning swirl of cloud and sea that is our home planet.

Its beauty.

Its fragility.

Its solitude.

So you can perhaps forgive, or at least comprehend my almost irrational enthusiasm when I heard that NASA plans to go back to the moon.

NASA unveiled plans yesterday to set up a small and ultimately self-sustaining settlement of astronauts at the south pole of the moon sometime around 2020 -- the first step in an ambitious plan to resume manned exploration of the solar system.

The long-awaited proposal envisions initial stays of a week by four-person crews, followed by gradually longer visits until power and other supplies are in place to make a permanent presence possible by 2024.

But while I am convinced such operations are more than worthwhile, I find myself doubting whether we can truly accomplish such goals any longer.

The space development of the 1960's was fueled largely by our competition with the Soviet Union for the dominance of space. Without the support of the DoD I wonder whether any US administration will really be interested in the enormous expenses involved, and counting on international support can be tricky indeed.

I'm also concerned that this project will come at the expense of other worthwhile, but more pure science projects.

And, frankly, this first step in Bush's proposed moon-Mars project, is endangered because of the president's current and past policies.

The massive debt he has accumulated over his term of office amounts to an enormous tax burden on future generations. The same generations which would also have to fund NASA's undertaking.

The press and the president are increasingly worried about the historical view of this presidency.

Wouldn't it be ironic if, seen by future generations, BushCorp™'s greatest failure was not the debacle in Iraq, but the debt burden that doomed mankind's exploration of space?

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