There is talk that President Bush will announce a new initiative to return to the moom. On December 17, the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the president is expected to call for a return mission to the moon, possibly establishing a permanent base there, and maybe even a manned Mars mission.
I think these are good things and just what this nation needs. Right now, what do we have to unite us and motivate us as a nation? We want to stop terrorists from killing us. We want to wipe them out. A good goal, but one expressed in the negative. And it will be difficult to tell when we have actually reached the end of that mission. We will only know we have stopped them by the fact we haven’t been attacked again.
So we need a new mission, a new national goal. And what better one than to continue the project we began 40 years ago and then abandoned? Some will say it is a waste of money that can be spent to alleviate problems on Earth. But we have money to spend on those things. It is not a zero-sum game. Space exploration is a project of the human imagination, that helps all humanity to look together as one back at Earth and to realize our true unity and the man-made divisions that separate us.
In a practical sense, the space program provides many technological advancements that benefit and have benefited mankind. Since 1960, tens of thousands of patented inventions have been the result of NASA research, from teflon to space-age medicines. The benefits to humanity will be awesome.
I think President John F. Kennedy summed it up best when addressed Rice University on September 12, 1962: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is the one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intended to win, and the others, too.”