Been there, done that, let’s do something else
OBAMA FORCES AMERICANS TO SEEK A NEW APOLLO PROJECT
PolySigh by Matt Hooper
Most of you heard that Space Shuttle Atlantis made it safely back to Earth last week, marking the end of service for that particular form of space transportation.
And that’s a shame, because the shuttle program was pretty cool. But it was also costly, both in blood and treasure, as well as outdated. We all knew that a final voyage was just a matter of time.
Some of my conservative friends took to the Facebook not long after Atlantis touched down, upset that the program has run its course and upset that Barack Obama has kiboshed the shuttle’s successor program, Constellation. Constellation was to have taken us back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars—in search of water, people, answers, etc. But Obama—with the backing of Buzz Aldrin (who walked on the flipping moon!)—said the program was lacking innovation and over-budget, so he tabled it.
So, we’re not going back to the moon. Darn.
We would’ve gotten some high-def video, seen if our flag was still there, played another round of golf. It would’ve been nice, right? Yeah.
Let me tell you what else would be nice. I own a home down here in God’s County (Shelby, of course). It’s up-side down—mortgage-wise, not like...you know. There are seven rooms in the house—minus closets and bathrooms—and three of those rooms are completely empty. Not as much as a chair on the floor or a picture on the wall.
I work a full-time job, I freelance here and elsewhere, but I’m struggling to make ends meet. Frankly, I’ve barely got enough money in the coffers to pay the mortgage, keep the lights on and fill my belly. I’d love to have a dining room table and chairs, love to have a sofa in the living room, love to have a bed in the second bedroom—but I don’t. Don’t have enough money. Maybe someday.
And don’t you know I wake up every day and pass those rooms on the way to the car and I get sad. I want to have people over for dinner, but they don’t have anywhere to sit. It’s embarrassing. But I’ve got to do what I can to get by, thankful in the knowledge that I’m a lot luckier than most.
You could say that the United States is in a similar way. There’s a lot we’d love to do and have, but the threat of default and the weak economy has forced us to tighten our belts and do what we can to get by. I, for one, am glad that the President saw fit to eliminate a costly government program that was bloated, mismanaged and over-budgeted. You really wouldn’t expect a Democrat to do that, right? That’s more of a Republican thing—reign in the government, let the private sector fill the void, cut the waste, no frivolous spending, etc.
But for some reason, NASA has managed to turn conventional political wisdom on its head. Now it’s the Democrats chopping budgets and the Republicans crying foul. What gives?
Well, I’ve read the Facebooks and perused the blogosphere in search of answers. I found them.
There are two general reasons why conservatives are on Obama’s back about cutting Constellation. The first is pretty obvious and petty—they hate the man and everything he does, ergo, they hate this move. I’ve read some belligerent blog postings claiming that Obama is facilitating some sort of vast Muslim-loving conspiracy (Huh??) or some kind of Putin plot to re-start the Cold War (since now we’re bumming rides with the cosmonauts). Because, you know, the guy really hates America. Whatever.
Second, conservatives (and some others) see the end of the shuttle program—and Obama’s move to cut costs—as a shot across the bow of the American can-do spirit. Atlantis’s final landing reminded us of the litany of remarkable accomplishments NASA has achieved since Kennedy’s moon-shot ultimatum. I mean, we’d yet to master commercial air travel in this country before we touched down in the Sea of Tranquility.
When you consider that and add the fact that we beat the Soviets in the process, it just sends a wave of patriotic goosepimples down the ol’ backbone. Now the folks back at mission control are left to wander around an empty launch pad, much in the same way I shuffle around my empty house each morning.
But there are other Apollo-sized challenges out there that we Americans need to put our brawn and brains behind...like alternative fuels.
Listen here, conservatives—you may think that stuff like biofuels, solar power and hydrogen fuel cells appeal only to the Al Gore sect and crusty environmentalists, but you’d be wrong. Oil is a very finite resource and, when you consider how much of it we and the rest of the world consume, it doesn’t take a genius to determine that (A) it’s going to eventually be rare and very expensive and (B) which ever business or country develops the best alternative to oil will rule the world for generations to come.
Americans love to win, and we love money, so I’m not sure why we haven’t pushed our collective weight behind renewable fuels. Maybe it’s because many of the wealthiest people in this country have their money tied up in oil futures, waiting for the inevitable price boom that will come with the eventual shortages. And since most of those people vote Republican, it’s easy to see why that party would continue the abominable “Drill, baby, drill” mantra.
What’s obvious is that space is not the final frontier, but rather, just another frontier. Energy, poverty and disease eradication are also frontiers, and they are waiting to be conquered. So, what are we waiting for?
“PolySigh” is a weekly political column by Matt Hooper. Send your feedback to editor@ bhamweekly.com.