With the 50th anniversary this past week of John Glenn becoming the first American in orbit, the release of NASA’s budget for 2013, and lingering thoughts about Newt Gingrich’s campaign promises to put a permanent base on the Moon within eight years of him becoming president, there has been plenty of fodder for commentators of all sorts to support or dump on our space program.
What has been a pleasant surprise to me is that all of these events have led to a number of instances in various online opinion pieces, where we’re finding support for NASA and our space program in general. It’s been a real treat reading these commentaries, some of which find flaming liberal democrats begrudgingly agreeing with Newt, and some that are almost apologetic in their tone for supporting space, like they were revealing a dark family secret by coming out of the closet with something they were afraid to admit.
This past week the Christian Science Monitor published a column written by Congressman Eddie Johnson, a Texas Democrat. He wrote in support of the space program: “It is about inspiring people; it is about providing a peaceful and positive demonstration to nations around the world of American technological preeminence; it is about developing cutting edge technologies for human space missions that benefit our citizens and create new jobs. It also motivates young people to pursue careers in science and engineering and advances knowledge generally.”
That’s one politician I couldn’t agree with more. Here are some more noteworthy comments:
From Manchester, New Hampshire, an editorial in the Union Leader reacted to Glenn’s anniversary and the famous astronaut decrying the “downsizing in space exploration” by saying “there is much to be said for a nation’s looking to its future as a way to inspire itself and bring on the kinds of innovation that came when Glenn, Alan B. Shepard Jr., and other early astronauts blazed a trail in the heavens.”
From the Auburn Citizen in New York, columnist Guy Cosentino talks about all the grand achievements of our space program and its many benefits, and also laments the momentum lost as NASA’s goals are scaled back — which he blames President Obama for — and notes that it’s the Russians we beat to the Moon that we now have to rely on to resupply the International Space Station, concluding that “Now we seem to be more about what can’t be done, not what challenges we can conquer.”
Even in faraway South Africa, the Daily Maverick’s J. Brooks Spector takes a nostalgic look at the early days of the space program and Glenn’s historic flight and then wonders what is going on today, writing “Sadly for those of us who were entranced by the wonder of those space missions then, NASA now has a greatly shrunken profile. The proposed Mars mission is far away – and, under current budgetary constraints, maybe it is actually located in Never Never Land.”
There’s even hope from the most liberal, distrustful of authority and cynical of all commentators: the modern college student journalist. Claire Anderson of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian takes every cheap shot at Newt Gingrich’s ideas for going back to the Moon that she can muster, while also ridiculing Republicans, Star Wars fans and even President John F. Kennedy’s hair. For me, a mean old conservative parent that can’t relate to a younger generation — or so it would seem to Miss. Anderson — her column just screams “uninformed, shallow thinking, angry youth.” But then there’s a nice surprise at the end, God love her, that gives me hope we could be friends. After spending an entire column repeating time and again that a lunar colony is impossible and basically a stupid idea, she concludes by saying: “they should at least revamp NASA, increasing the budget and should attempt again to send people to the moon and beyond, if only to see what is out there. The U.S. government spends money on crazier ideas, so why not this?”
Claire, it’s not just the government that spends its money on space, which to me is not a crazy idea at all. There are other folks, much closer to your age than mine, who also think spending their own money on space is a good idea.
While the Space Coast isn’t exactly a hot bed for hockey fans, the presence of the Space Coast Ice Plex in Rockledge notwithstanding, from the world of the NHL this past week came the news that Winnipeg Jets forward Jim Slater – apparently no relation to our local surf legend Kelly Slater – has said that he doesn’t plan to get a new car or big house with his next big NHL contract. Instead, Slater says he would rather spend $250,000 to go into space for 30 seconds. The topic came up when Slater visited a Winnipeg fire station and admitted he didn’t want to be a fireman as a kid. His real dream while growing up Michigan was to be an astronaut. And apparently it still is. “I think it would be so cool to just go to outer space.”
I do too, and from what I’m seeing online these days, there are a lot more people out there who still think going into space is still cool.
Now if we can only figure out a way to translate that interest into action that will lead our elected leaders to more aggressively support additional funding for all areas our space program.