In the midst of the February freeze in Pennsylvania what would be your choice to get away?A balmy beach in Jamaica or a ride in outer space?
Jamaica, of course, would be safer and cheaper while outer space would be a lot like Pennsylvania in February: cold, dark and often with all the ice and snow, dangerous.But if President Obama has his way you could soon buy your way into the Milky Way.
While the administration has been busy spending trillions buying banks, insurance and auto companies it finally has decided to privatize a government program.The administration’s recent budget proposal would trash NASA’s space shuttle and let the private sector take over the project.
The reasoning is clear, the results murky.NASA under the Clinton and Bush administrations strayed far from the shuttles’ original purpose.It was conceived as a military weapon.In 1983 Ronald Reagan called for the strategic defense initiative.A plan to use laser based weapons to destroy incoming missiles attacking the U.S.Dubbed "Star Wars" by the media it was largely dismissed as a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ project that would never work.The shuttle was to be an intrinsic part of this strategy.Building, deploying and commanding the system.
The Challenger disaster in 1986 should have brought NASA back on course but it didn’t.Even after the tragic death of a school teacher in that disaster, NASA continued to play with all kinds of agendas.The Clinton administration advanced this with the international space station that really can’t justify its own existence while the administration of Bush 2 decided America should go back to manned missions to the moon with the hopes of going on to Mars.
The shuttle and the moon flight are largely unrelated but NASA bundled the cost of building a new shuttle with the cost of the moon trip leading the President’s budget people to toss the whole expensive package.
With good reason.Going back to the moon after nearly 40 years wouldn’t accomplish much.The late revered astro-physicist Dr. Carl Sagan extolled the virtues of unmanned flight as far more productive and cost efficient in exploring the heavens that any vehicle with a human on it.The persistent political notion that manned flight to planets is a necessity is flawed.
However with all the things that should be privatized the space shuttle program isn’t one of them.It should return to its original mission – our national defense.
The Iranians tested a sub-orbital missile last week.They are attempting to develop nuclear weapons.Reports indicate that Iran’s real goal may be to explode a high altitude nuclear weapon over the U.S. with the intention of creating an electro magnetic field disruption.EMF could, in theory, wipe out America’s power grids, telephonic systems and computer data.Crippling our defensive systems the Iranians would then have the theoretical capability to bomb us, and our allies in Israel, back to the stone age.
In 1983 Reagan’s idea was considered laughable.Even though it led to the bankruptcy of the former Soviet Union.In those days one couldn’t make a call to the White House on a wireless phone that fits in a shirt pocket.Nobody could check the credibility of the idea on something called the Internet.
With all of the technologies arrayed today Reagan’s idea certainly isn’t foolhardy.In fact it’s downright necessary.Abandoning the lunar strategy while restoring the original defensive mission of the shuttle could someday lead to a safer America and maybe an end to the insanity of the global arms build up underway on this sorry planet.
Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit education foundation with offices in Harrisburg and King Of Prussia. Somedays is syndicated to leading newspapers and radio stations through out Pennsylvania.