President Obama announced recently that he intends on scrapping NASA’s Constellation Program, which in short included development of aerospace technologies as well as space colonization, with a goal of reaching the moon by 2020 and mars not much later than that. Sound familiar? It is the same plan proposed by previous United States president George Bush, Jr. When the 2011 budget was released recently, it showed that NASA’s Constellation Program would indeed get no federal money to fund the project. It would seem now that the public and political reactions are extreme on both sides of the argument.
In opposition to the cancelation of NASA’s largest project in decades, many congressmen and senators seem to be fighting against this proposal, which Obama stands firm. The opposition is saying that given the amount of jobs that would be lost seems to go contrary to the ideology of Obama’s political party. Furthermore, the previously proposed plan by former president Bush was viewed by the American public as a message to the rest of the world: WE ARE THE LEADERS IN SPACE EXPLORATION. And, in a sense, it was exactly that. Immediately following the implementing of the Constellation Program, we have seen the rise of the new space race. The funding of the Constellation Program was the answer to this new race. Japan, China, & India have all been talking about their new shuttles and programs in the news, and why shouldn’t they? Isn’t this what drives technological advancement? Competition? This is what a lot of the opposition to Obama’s financial cut of the Constellation Program seem to be saying.
But what kind of logic is Obama using here? It should be no surprise that with the onset of these new missions to both the Moon and Mars we have seen the rise of various private groups that have also begun their own space mission. As Obama has said in the past, and has been reiterated by officials, the future of American space flight is no longer federally based. It will soon be in the hands of private investors and the general public, such as SpaceX. This is not to say that it will be the end of NASA as we know it. NASA, like any other organization, will still exist. In many cases they will still be the leading organization in astronaut training even for private groups. This is the new vision of space travel in the eyes of Obama.
In opposition to putting the power in the hands of private investors, many asking “what if these private companies do not live up to their goals?” And that indeed is a serious question, for what would then happen to NASA and the United States’ place in the space race? Well, you have to ask yourself one big question though: if NASA was already the leading organization in space exploration in America, why would private investors invest millions and millions of their own money into non-government programs? The answer should be simple. Because as it turns out the funding NASA was getting from the government even from the implementation of Bush Jr’s original vision was never enough. This is why every year NASA has been asking for more and more money, because their goals are not attainable with the current funding.
It is a joke to think that Bush Jr’s vision would have actually sent humans to the moon and 2020 and to Mars by 2030. But then why with all the hype about “going to the moon!”? 300 years ago the idea of the new continent, America, was a vision in the eyes of many explorers. America was seen as the land unexplored, the untamed world. Even after its founding, many from around the world viewed America as the “land of opportunity.” Yet, when you look at how things have turned up, time has shown that America is not exactly what is used to be seen as, at least not any more.
When George Bush Jr said that we were going back to the moon, there was more being said than just the literal action of going to the moon to leave some dusty footprints on the surface. He was saying that as Americans we have the ability to go where no man has gone before, and we will pioneer this new frontier for the rest of the world to follow. He was essentially saying that we will find the new America, because the new America, the original unexplored frontier, is space colonization. Cue Star Trek music.
Now, with the actions of Obama stopping America from being the leader in space exploration, many are seeing this as a red light, while the rest of the world zooms past us. But think what Obama’s actions are saying metaphorically. What this says is that space is all around us and is equally available to all of humanity IF we all work together. What he is saying has nothing to do with Americans being first or last in a race that essentially is for the greater good of everyone on the planet. That’s the message being sent out to everyone. Space is the new Atlantis, the new America, and unless the planet works together, both federal and private, we will have to suffer the consequences of having our entire race on one small planet. The cutting of the Constellation Program is a sacrifice for the greater good.
Furthermore, it’s not as if the money that is no longer going to the Constellation Program is just going to be lost in the system. It is being diverted to other social programs (see HEALTH CARE REFORM). So the questioning of why Obama would cause many people involved in NASA to lose their jobs should be quite understandable now, because he is looking out for the general public in the way a president should. When it comes to unnecessary spending, sacrifices need to be made, and Obama is doing just that.