Manned Space Flight? Call the Russians

Thursday, 21 Jul 2011 04:07 PM

By Chris Freind

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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. And the biggest culprit is overseas outsourcing. Consider:
  • We have outsourced our energy needs. Rather than utilizing our mammoth domestic reserves, we are bent over a barrel, paying through the nose to nations who don’t put America on their Christmas card lists. This transfer of wealth, the largest in history, continues unabated.
  • We have outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base. When a nation makes nothing, it is infinitely harder to rebound from a severe recession, so expect the economy to 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. These materials are absolutely critical in everything that keeps commerce flowing and our nation safe: computers, cell phones, high-tech electronics — and yes, strategic military assets.
So now that the Space Shuttles have been retired, it’s no surprise that we have outsourced manned space flight. Naturally, we have no shuttle replacement, since that would have required common sense, so now we are in the peculiar situation of relying on the same folks who less than two decades ago were our arch enemy — the Russians.

While they’re friendlier now, they are still Ruskies, with quite a few Soviets in the mix — and they don’t exactly spring to mind when contemplating bona fide allies.

It’s not how fast you start, but who crosses the finish line first. So it’s not without irony that the biggest race that mattered to this country — the Space Race — has now been won by our adversary.

Sure, they launched a man into space first, but after that, it was all America. Skylab, moon landings, deep-space probes, satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). And without Americans supplying the logistics to the ISS via the Shuttle, it would have never gotten off the ground. Literally.

So let’s recap. We foot most of the ISS bill. We supply the engineering. 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?

“Dad, how do we get astronauts to the space station?”

“Uhhh . . . since we put our spaceships into museums and don’t have new ones, we now 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, what does?

America’s original vision for space exploration has been sidetracked, forsaking that which inspired generations to reach for the stars.

Despite landing on the Moon just 66 years after the Wright brothers’ flight, we haven’t been back in nearly four decades. Dark side of the Moon? Unexplored. Manned missions to Mars and Jupiter’s moons, which hold the promise of life? Off the table. (And it’s not for lack of money, as we spend on everything else under the sun).

The resulting loss of innovation has been significant. Even in a program as basic as Shuttle, the technologies that emerged were phenomenal, from materials to microprocessors that revolutionized our lives. Now imagine those types of advancements on steroids.

That sky-is-the-limit creativity would emerge if America stopped wallowing in mediocrity and once again forged ahead.

But a dedicated space program produces something infinitely more important — an unbridled sense of American nationalism, a pioneering spirit that doesn’t know the term “impossible.” Just look at the spectacular rescue of Apollo 13.

Those alive in the '50s and '60s will mistily recount how America was united when launching its boys into the great unknown. Reaching for the stars made folks rise above petty arguments and realize that some things were 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 or China. And while the space race isn’t a sprint, but a marathon, the United States doesn’t even have a runner on the track.

So will America emerge from 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 Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.






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