The Corner

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The End of the Space Race


Hopefully, the readers of The Corner can stand one more posting about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. I grew up in Huntsville, Ala., the home of the Marshall Space Flight Center. My parents knew and socialized with many of the German scientists who came to Huntsville with Werner von Braun to start building our space program. Unlike most kids, who live in neighborhoods where their parents are in every kind of different profession, the parents of everyone I knew worked as a scientist or an engineer either for NASA or for the Army Missile Command out at Redstone Arsenal. One of our neighbors was the head of astronaut training at Marshall and a lot of very famous astronauts used to come over to his house for dinner. We lived 15 miles from the engine test stands out on the space flight center, but I can still remember the windows in our house rattling when they were testing the huge rocket engines they were building at Marshall. I saw many of the exhibits that you can now see if you visit the Space Museum in Huntsville, except I saw them out at the space flight center before they became exhibits when, in those pre-9/11, pre-paranoia security days, parents would take their kids (and their friends) out to show them what they were working on.

The development of our rocket program and the drive to get to the moon was one of the brightest and greatest achievements of the American spirit and of American know-how, a true showing of what we can achieve through science, engineering, a can-do attitude that comes from our unique culture, and the bravery and determination that was the common, shared trait of all of our test pilots and astronauts. The fact that we have not only not been back to the moon since the end of the Apollo program, but have not expanded our horizons in trying to reach the other planets in our solar system, is a sad indication of what may be the beginning of our decline as a great nation.

There is almost no doubt that the Chinese will be on the moon within a decade, while we will still be earthbound and potentially bankrupt as a nation with our economy, our technology, and our industrial might in ruins because of uncontrolled government spending, borrowing, and taxing. I had an exciting childhood living in the midst of the space race, but it saddens me to think that time, 40 years ago, may end up being the historical high point of our going out into space, the final frontier.