Yesterday’s announcement that the Obama administration plans to scrap funding for voyages to the moon and to Mars, shows how low President Obama’s horizons truly are.
As Charles Krauthammer wrote ten years ago this week:
It took 100,000 years for humans to get inches off the ground. Then, astonishingly, it took only 66 to get from Kitty Hawk to the moon. And then, still more astonishingly, we lost interest, spending the remaining 30 years of the 20th century going around in circles in low earth orbit, i.e., going nowhere.
It’s been ten more years of going nowhere since Krauthammer wrote these words. Obama now proposes another ten to come.
As Krauthammer has rightly noted elsewhere, the most dangerous part of space exploration is leaving and entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The most interesting and exciting part is getting as far away as possible. So, what does President Obama propose? That we stay close to home.
As Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D., Fla.) puts it, “The president’s proposal would leave NASA with essentially no program and no timeline for exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.”
Furthermore, at a time when the president claims his focus is on jobs, scrapping these programs — on which we’ve already spent nearly $10 billion — would cut public spending in one area that actually creates jobs.
You know those great pictures of Earth from outer space, showing our planet suspended against the blackness, a beautiful blue ball? No one has seen that view since the Apollo program ended 38 years ago. No astronaut has seen that view since then. We’ve all just seen the pictures.
Now, unless Congress rejects the president’s recommendations, the next people to see that view will likely be the Chinese.
Whether it’s tax cuts or defense spending; or whether it’s the courage, ambition, and sense of wonder that combine to lead great souls to great feats of exploration and discovery; one can surely say this much about Barack Obama: Mr. President, you’re no Jack Kennedy.
— Jeffrey H. Anderson, the director of the Benjamin Rush Society, was the senior speechwriter for Secretary Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.