How this affects you: the lack of a manned American space program is a deathblow to the discovery of new technologies and life-saving bio-medical research — not to mention a national security threat, as the U.S. must now rely on foreign nations for human access into space.
Say what you want about Americans, but at least we’re consistent. After all, we have willfully allowed the demise of our nation, not from outside invasion, but within. With our full approval, the greatest, most benevolent nation the world has known is being transformed into a shadow of its former self. In many respects, it has become a second world nation with a first-world military, but even that dubious distinction may soon be a pipedream.
The biggest culprit for the decline? Overseas outsourcing. Consider what we have done:
– Incomprehensibly, we have outsourced our energy needs. Rather than utilizing our mammoth domestic reserves, we find ourselves bent over a barrel, paying through the nose to nations who don’t put exactly put America on their Christmas card lists — such as Venezuela and the Middle East. This transfer of wealth, the largest in history, only continues to accelerate.
– We have outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base to Mexico, Central America, India and China. When a nation makes nothing, it is infinitely harder to rebound from a severe recession, so do the math. Our economy will be in the tank for the long haul.
-Bowing to excessive self-imposed regulations, America now relies on other countries — especially China — to supply it with rare earth elements, without which the economy would come crashing down. These materials are absolutely instrumental in everything necessary to keep commerce flowing and our nation safe: computers, cell phones, high-tech electronics — and yes, strategic military assets.
So now that our fleet of Space Shuttles has been retired from service, it should come as no surprise that we have done what was once unthinkable. We have officially outsourced the mainstay of our space program — manned space flight. Naturally, we have no replacement, since that would have required foresight and common sense, so now we are in the peculiar situation of having to rely on the very same folks who less than two decades ago were our archenemy — the Russians.
Hey, it’s great that they’re a bit friendlier now, but let’s not get carried away. They are still Ruskies, with quite a few Soviets still in the mix — folks who don’t exactly pop to mind when contemplating our bona fide allies.
There’s an old saying that it’s not how fast you start the race, but who crosses the finish line first. So it’s not without irony that the biggest race that mattered to this country just a few decades ago — the Space Race — has now officially been won by our adversary.
Sure, they launched a Cosmonaut into space before we put Alan Shepard there, but after that, it was all America. Skylab, multiple moon landings, deep space probes, communication and military satellites and yes, forking over huge chunks of cash to build the International Space Station (ISS). And without Americans supplying the logistics to the ISS via the Shuttle program, it would have never gotten off the ground. Literally.
So let’s recap. We foot most of the bill. We supply the engineering knowledge and expertise. We send the materials into space, and we build it. And now, we have to beg permission from the Russians to access it.
How does a parent have that conversation with a starry-eyed child mesmerized by the lure of outer space?
"Dad, how do we get astronauts to the space station?"
"Well, uhhh… since we put all of our space ships into museums and don’t have any new ones, we now have to hitch a ride with the Russians. But there’s good news. They used to be our enemy, but now they’re run by the Mob."
If America’s space situation doesn’t lend itself to the euphemism of a deep space probe getting stuck in Uranus, I don’t know what does.
By no means was the Shuttle program without flaws. True, it was the base of operations for cutting edge experiments and bio-medical research, and it placed the incomparable Hubble telescope into orbit, opening our eyes to unprecedented views of the universe.
To many, though, the Shuttle was nothing more than a very expensive bus that flew around the Earth, dropped off construction equipment, and returned home. And while the original plans called for launches on a regular basis, the Shuttle flew only a fraction of the envisioned missions.
Shuttle’s value aside, it is indisputable that America’s original vision for space exploration got sidetracked, with numerous Administrations forsaking that which inspired generations of Americans to literally reach for the stars.
Despite the once-unimaginable walk on the Moon occurring a mere 66 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, we haven’t been back in nearly four decades. Dark side of the Moon? Still unexplored. Manned missions to Mars, let alone Jupiter’s moons, which hold the promise of life more than anywhere else in our solar system? Off the table. (And it’s not for lack of money, as we spend trillions on everything else under the sun — no pun intended — but that’s another column).
The resulting loss of innovation and invention has been significant. Even in a program as basic as Shuttle, the technology that emerged was phenomenal, from materials to microprocessors that revolutionized every aspect of our lives. Now imagine those types of advancements on steroids. Such is the sky-is-the-limit creativity that would emerge if America stopped wallowing in mediocrity and once again forged ahead, as only it can.
And it’s not just the tangible advances that come about from a dedicated space program, but something infinitely more important. There is an unbridled sense of nationalism, a pride that emanates from every citizen that, in no uncertain terms, shouts to the world that the American pioneering spirit can never be stopped, that nothing is impossible. For proof, look no further than the spectacular rescue of Apollo 13.
Ask anyone alive in the 50’s and 60’s, and they will mistily recount how America was completely united when it was launching its boys into the great unknown. Were there political disagreements? Of course, but reaching for the stars made folks realize that they could rise above petty arguments, and that yes, some things were even bigger than themselves.
Pushing the limits of human ability and venturing into what was literally a dream for 50,000 years’ worth of humankind gave Americans the justifiable patriotic pride that they were indeed special — that they weren’t just traveling through history, but making it.
Conquering gravity and making science fiction come true didn’t start in Russia, and most certainly didn’t originate in China. The space race isn’t a sprint, but a marathon, yet the United States doesn’t even have a runner on the track.
So will America ever come out of its self-imposed eclipse and once again claim the space leadership mantle that it not just owned, but invented?
Hard to tell, but a hybrid quote from astronaut James Lovell and the comic strip character Pogo keep coming to mind:
"Houston, we have a problem —- and it is us."
Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries
and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including
The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick
Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in
Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national
television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]