If you haven’t read the book you surely have seen the movie “Right Stuff” about our early astronauts. You also have seen “Apollo 13” at some point. Those movies and books do a great job of capturing the essence of what it is to be an American and our national psyche. We have from the inception of our nation been a people with a stirring, a thirst for exploration, innovation and risk taking to not only see the horizon but to seek out what lies there. Our earliest settlers were never content to sit on the coast and be fishermen. Our nascent merchants and traders sought out new markets and always were on the frontier of invention and development of the engines of enterprise and science.
It is not by accident that we are the land of Franklin, Edison, Bell and Salk. Yes, other nations have produced their great men of the sciences and arts and explorers. But our passion for looking for more, seeking more, searching for more was a group attitude. The whole nation rejoiced in Franklin and his achievements and we were proud of Edison and Bell. Some would say it is only because we were blessed with great natural resources that we always achieved so much and reached out even onto the stars. But that would be wrong. Africa is blessed with more natural resources than any continent on earth and it and its people never achieved any great advancement. They were not seekers and searchers. Their curiosity ended at the village walls or the scope of their hunting range. We imagined what might be and what might lie beyond the next mountain range or the next industrial advancement.
Other nations had a few men who worked on the airplane but it was the Wright brothers who made them fly, really fly. Some thought the telegraph was merely a play toy of the rich and that you could communicate by land mail anything needed. Others saw it for what it was and knew that knowledge had to be communicated and done so quickly. Many thought rockets were interesting amusements for the idle dilettante but our Goddard took it to a new level. Von Braun admired him and took much of his inspiration from him. Regardless of the competition of the Cold War it was not surprising that the US became the leader in space exploration. That type of endeavor was indeed our destiny. We made those explorations, of all kinds, our destiny. We believed that there was more to learn, more to see and more to know if we kept pushing the limits of our knowledge and were brave enough to dare and challenge the unknown.
When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon it was an American achievement. We all felt a part of that great adventure. It was one more footstep in the tradition of Lewis and Clark, the Mountain Men, Powell, and our great barons of industry and the science lab. We have historically had the attitude that if we can dream it, we can do it. Those great and sometimes seemingly impossible dreams are what has made us great. We are not the most populous nation, others have the equal of our resources, but none to date has been able to match the American “Can Do” spirit. That has been our catch phrase for generatioins.
The recent announcement from the administration to cancel our Moon exploration program is sad. That also means the cancellation or generational delay of our hopes to visit Mars. We need the Moon as the staging base for that venture to another planet. Lord knows we have budget problems of staggering and unimaginable size at this time and our Government, Inc. boys need to rein in the spending by huge amounts. There are plenty of areas where we are spending billions to support more government employees to be union members to support the Democrats who in turn will give them largesse with increased salaries or jobs. They make way more than the private sector already. The affront here is that the buget cut to make political hay and tout paring the buget is a direct attack on the very spirit that propels Americans to greatness. Cut the department of education, commerce, interior, labor and yes, even the civilian side of the Pentagon but don’t cut out our heart.
Attitude and pyschology are important. Take a look at the stock market these days with all the uncertainty about the direction Washington will take. Our adventurous spirit is the well spring of American achievement. Who the hell gets inspired by another few thousand paper pushers at the EPA or OSHA or Commerce. The current administration really doesn’t understand what we are or who we are. This decision is a retreat; it is a retreat not merely from space exploration but it is turning our back on the very animal spirit of the nation. If the question was asked with your next income tax return “Would you like to designate 2% of your taxes to the space program?” I have no doubt that the money would pour in. As an aside it would keep and create jobs, lots of them and that is a announced goal of the administration. What good will all those social programs like food stamps and welfare and unemployment do us if we are have lost our heart to dare, to seek, to attempt the not-yet-done? We might have food, shelter and clothing provided by Nanny government but we will be drudges and aimless souls seeking only the comforts of the moment. Our history has been one of stepping out of the comfort zone. We can ill afford to turn our back on our historic spirit. When we lose that spirit we will have already become second rate and ordinary. We will not be a shining city on a hill but a hovel in a swamp.
It is interesting that new phrases pop up with the media, prompted by the Administration to describe some of our current financial dealings. A year of so ago all the borrowing to finance every dream project of the Democrats was called an “investment”. You will note now that the new phrase to decribe the overwhelming borrowing of our government is referred to as “selling debt”. Now that is a new one. Gee, I didn’t know that debt had a value and you could sell it. I guess I am a lot richer than I thought. I can sell tons of my debt. Why don’t they simply say what it is–borrowing money, living on credit, asking creditors for even more money? http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com