This Day in History


I will be honest; I don’t know where I was on this day (July 20) in 1969. I think I was at my momma’s parent’s house in North Carolina but we might have still been at our house in Memphis. What I do know is that I did watch Neal Armstrong descend the ladder of the “Eagle” and take that first step on the moon.

What I find interesting about today, July 20, 2011, is that on the anniversary of our first landing on the moon we are effectively ending our presence in space. The last space shuttle is landing in a couple of days and it will be a long, long time before we ever go back into space on our own. Oh, I know that we will still send people into space but it will be in Soyuz spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station. But it will not be the same.

The Soyuz seems to be a reliable spacecraft and it will do the job that it is required to do but it cannot take large loads into space. And if we cannot take large loads into space I personally don’t see how we can do much of anything in space. The International Space Station will continue to fly for a few years but, like all machines, it wears out and parts break and need to be fixed. Sooner or later (hopefully much later), the ISS will return to Earth in a blaze of fire and light. And mankind’s presence in outer space will be no more.

Society seems to have marginalized science, technology, and exploration. When the cost of the Viet Nam War got too great, we cut back on the missions to the moon. And now we are doing the same thing. Other costs, the war in Afghanistan, the fight over the budget and the country’s debt, are draining this country’s resources. The replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope has apparently been cancelled. There is a plan to go to the moon but it is a long time away and it will probably be cancelled. I read somewhere that we have lost our ability to use the information we gained from our only trips to the moon back in 1969, 1970, and 1971.

I wouldn’t mind it if the argument was caring for people at home and exploring space but we balance the cost of exploration against our military expenditures and I don’t think those should be our priorities. People and the protection of people, not their destruction, must be our priority. As long as we have the mentality that we must spend money on weapons and destruction and feel that this brings us a better life, we will never have a better life.

I look at the attitude towards science today and wonder if we even care what’s out there in space. There is a generation who has never watched someone walk on the moon. We are on the verge of creating a generation that will never know what it means to live and work in space. We have lost our sense of curiosity, we no longer ask questions. We live in the present and fear what tomorrow brings.

But what’s worse is that we don’t have any plan to eliminate that fear. We spend our money on destruction and fear, not on hope and promise. When we cut funds, we cut the support for people. We have turned our schools into factories that turn out mindless robots, incapable of independent thought, instead of curious students, seeking to find answers to new questions, questions that expand our horizon. And why should students even thing about looking beyond the horizon.

We stand at the edge of the great unknown. We have effectively taken away our ability to even peer into that area. Forty some years from today, will we see earth from outer space as we did forty years ago? Will be reaching out beyond the solar system? Or will we even wonder what might be out there?

It is something to think about on this day in history.

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4 thoughts on “This Day in History

  1. The space race is like NASCAR… far removed from the life and needs of those whose money pays for it. The only difference is that NASCAR is paid for by the fan base and those who choose to sponsor race teams through advertising, etc. while NASA and all it’s “projects” are paid for by taxpayers and with money that is borrowed and must ultimately be repaid by our children and grandchildren. Our nation has many pressing infrastructure needs that simply must be addressed. If someone wants to go where no man has ever gone before, let them raise the capital from private investors and then develop the projects that will allow such exploration. But there is no basis to expect that the U.S. taxpayer will provide the majority funding, etc., for a multinational effort that is not directly relevant to the lives of those whose tax money is siphoned off and who see the future of their children and grandchildren mortgaged to fund the pursuit of that dream.

    • I would have never envisioned the space race like NASCAR. But then again, the space race was part of the 60s and was the political motivation for going to the moon. There were many who said that once we had achieved the first moon landing,we didn’t need to go back.

      There isn’t a race right now, except perhaps for mediocrity. Right now, I see a country without a vision for the future because it cannot see beyond the horizon. The first time we went to the moon, we saw Earth from a different perspective and it began to change how we thought about this world on which we live. The environmental movement in this country began after we saw Earth from space for the first time and began to think about how fragile life was.

      You won’t get an argument from me concerning the infrastructure in this country. But why should the money to fix the roads, bridges, and schools come from the space program (where there isn’t enough money anyway)? Shouldn’t the money that we need to fix this country come from the biggest budget items (the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security)? Why is it that whenever there is a discussion to cut the budget, the biggest items in the budget are ignored and the smallest items are hacked to pieces.

      The benefits of going into space in the sixties are right at your fingertips – the personal computer is an outgrowth of the computer technology that had to be developed to get spacecraft to fly. We use solar cells on the ISS and the same technology should be pplied to solar energy for homes and businesses on this planet.

      There are private investors currently putting money into space exploration. But who is going to gain from that? If I am not mistaken, the satellites that we use for our GPS devices when we drive were put into space, not private investors. The cost is too great and the return on investment limited.

      Finally, I would rather my children, grandchildren, and generations to follow be able to look up and not see the moon in the sky but see the earth because they have the change to go to the moon. Right now, that doesn’t seem possible and the thought that we never will go into space again simply frightens me because it speaks to a vision of today and not tomorrow.

  2. The space race was rooted in the Cold War. We won that war. There is no reason for us to continue spending on it. It has become the federal equivalent of NASCAR, high-tech entertainment benefiting those who are vitally interested either due to employment, personal interest, etc. Other than pictures and rocks, I can’t think of anything that going to the moon brought to our nation except bragging rights and a soothed ego bruised by Sputnik.

    How mankind sees the world is not driven by photographs from outer space. If the current environmental movement with its extremist political agenda is the result of space exploration, then the money needs to be immediately cut off.

    If future exploration is warranted, let other nations pay for it. Whatever have been the positive results of space exploration, U.S. taxpayers have paid the overwhelming cost from which other nations have benefited without having to pay any of the cost.

    The federal government has only a few Constitutionally mandated responsibilities. Defense is one of them. Protecting foreign nations is not. Withdrawing all U.S. forces and eliminating all overseas U.S. military installations would be a good way to reducing federal spending. Another very obvious cost savings would be to eliminate the department of education. That would have the immediate benefit of ending federal manipulation education in local communities as well as at the post-graduate and graduate level. Subsidies for ethanol, etc. would be excellent places to look for efficiencies in the federal budget . Putting that money into space exploration is another discussion. If taxpayers want to put their money into such things, then that is fine. But, those who pay no taxes should not be the ones who decide how tax payer money will be spent, either for defense, space exploration, whatever.

    If memory serves me, computers were not developed by the space program. Doubtless the space program was involved. But from early computer dinosaurs to modern day lap tops, etc., the process and pace of development has been driven by private entrepreneurs and consumer demand. Current cell phone technology, GPS, etc. have been driven by the need to meet consumer demand. The cost for satellites and other equipment needed to service that consumer demand is not properly the responsibility of the federal government. Let those who want the technology pay the cost of its development and support. Let other nations pay their part rather than benefiting from the cost being paid by the U.S. taxpayer. If the cost is to great, it is no lost. The world operated just fine long before everyone could do a Capt. Kirk and flip their phone out to telecommunicate.

    It is time for our nation to focus its financial resources on our nation. Future generations will have to pay the bills we have run up with the programs of the failed great society and the now waning space program. The cost are going to be ruinous. For the first time our children and grandchildren are faced with the prospect that they will have a lower standard of living that we have enjoyed. Some of that is due to the fact that they will have to pay for our lifestyle. It is time for our federal government to live within its means and not tax and spend with no accountability or restraint. If this means NASA must be funded at a lower level or even eliminated, then that is what must be done. Throughout the nation state government are almost uniformly required to operate with balanced budgets. Except in a time of national emergency such as war, there is no reason for the federal government to be permitted to run deficits that today extend as far as the mind can conceive. To permit such is a prescription for national suicide.

    In the end, the decision that must be made about NASA reflects the need for a reordering of priorities at the national level. In local governments the discussion often easier. At the state level, it is more difficult. At the national level the difficulty increases almost beyond imagination. But for the first time in many generations the national debt is front and center in the attention of taxpayers and voters. Everyone is finally recognizing that we cannot continue to spending approximately more money that we have coming in. People are beginning to figure out that the only long term fix for our problem is a pay as you go plan. Anything else is just a ponzi scheme.

    • You aren’t going to get much of an argument out of me when it comes to where our tax dollars are spent. But, if you have read this blog for any period of time, you know that I am worried about the people and our seemingly disregard for their well-being.

      Let’s make note that what is driving the deficit right now is not spending on outer space or science or any social programs. What is driving the deficit is a war started by a Republican President and not even part of the budget.

      Maybe cell phones and GPS and other technology-based devices are the outgrowth of private business but the seeds were planted in the space race and the development of that technology.

      My point will always be that right now we have no means of developing a vision for the future. We have literally killed our educational system and our children have no curiosity. This cannot be and should not be funded by the private sector. All they want is the bottom line and that is what they are getting right now.

      If we put the operation of space exploration into the hands of entrepenuers, then many people will be denied the opportunity and benefits that come from exploration. If we don’t have a vision, then we have no future.

      The discussion about the national debt is fine. The discussion about where our money is spent is fine as well. But we also have to discuss our priorities and I make the argument that we need to take care of people first. Space research requires a lot more than we are doing right now and if we don’t start doing something, we will have no future.

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