We choose to go to the moon. 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… President John Fitzgerald Kennedy September 12th 1962
The countdown to take place on Wednesday for Shuttle Atlantis will be the last one for NASA’s space flight program. These shuttles have been launched into space for the last forty years, and when first built, were one greatest advances of technology on the face of the Earth. But as time went on, priorities and leadership changed, and the shuttles retirement is one of the sad examples of how our country has been lead these past four decades.
Even on television, a space shuttle launch is one of the most miraculous things you will ever see, and when you think about the power and force it takes to launch these machines it is simply amazing. The more an object weighs Earth, the planets gravity holds it down, but NASA somehow figured out a way to beat gravity. They have sent millions of pounds of food, people, and equipment, not just to the International Space Station, but also to the moon.
When JFK said the above passage at Rice University he was speaking to America’s best. America was already behind as the Russians made it to space before us, and the psychological affect of that was enormous. Like today, we were questioning America’s ability to compete, wondering if we were making the right decisions, and wondering what it meant for the future? Kennedy knew going to the moon alone wasn’t going to defeat the Russians. But to show the world that we could do something that no one else had done was almost a spiritual moment that brought the country together.
It was a bragging point no one would ever be able to take away from us. While today we seem to be looking for entrepreneurs to come up with the next microchip, we have been lacking the “Yes We Can” attitude that made space flight possible.
In the sixties it was easy to say Democrats and Republicans were partners in crime, rather than trying to stab each other in the back. The rhetoric wasn’t nearly as bad and elected officials always knew to put country first and politics second. You certainly don’t get that sense out of Washington anymore. With leaders refusing to negotiate, talking points are at an all time high, and no one wants to take responsibility for anything unless they know their constituents will like it.
America’s debt wasn’t half what it is today. Not to mention it was more sustainable because the Marshall Plan was in full swing as we were exporting food to Europe and helping to rebuild the continent. Members of Congress knew this, and the debates that took place were specific and to the point. No one even cared about the rumors surrounding the JFK’s infidelities, because, well, it had nothing to do with the way he was running the country.
But now anything is fair game. Decorated heroes are having to defend their record, everyone is calling each other liars (because most of them are lying), and the only actions being taken is to advance ones political aspirations.
The reason why Obama is going to win next year is because Republicans can’t blame him for the reasons why he had to cut the space program. While historians might look back at the rockin’ 90’s as equivalent to the roaring 20’s, they will notice how no one sounded the alarm in the 00’s when there were signs the economy was slowing down.
But now instead of learning from our mistakes we tried to keep the machine going and living for the now instead of for the future. Space is humanities next frontier and it will not end with this launch. Russia and private companies will continue to go to the space station, but the advancements made by the scientists in NASA cannot be repeated anywhere else.
There is a difference between wanting to make a profit and working to advance humanities well being. It takes a different mindset, it takes a different type of drive that goes beyond our tiny little planet. We were willing to do the hard things because it was exciting to try and accomplish them. This poise is when America is at his best, and it took the countries leaders to put us in the position to give us the confidence to take those risks.
But as demand is down so is America’s adventuresome. The launch of the shuttle used to be representative of America’s assurance, but as that is slowly fading, we have to realize we are living in the internet age where even more things are possible. So when you watch the launch don’t think about what was, but think about what could be.