Tags: Presidential History | Challenger | Reagan | Space

Lessons From Challenger Should Be Star Issue This Election

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Thursday, 28 Jan 2016 03:26 PM Current | Bio | Archive

“We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.” — President Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986, lamenting the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Thirty years ago, the unthinkable became gut-wrenching reality, burned so deeply in the national psyche that many recall exactly where they were when they heard the news.

Americans’ complacency regarding their space program — shuttle missions had become “routine,” and, truth be told, boring to many — was immediately blown away, replaced by a focus on what went wrong, what we were doing, and where we were going. And yet, many questions remain unanswered.

President Reagan stated, “We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights . . . more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.”

But three decades later, those words ring hollow. Inconceivably, history’s most powerful nation has grounded itself most unceremoniously, abdicating its leadership position in space by outsourcing its astronaut program to, of all peoples, an adversary.

We utterly failed our mission to always push the envelope and, by extension, ourselves, when it came to exploring outer space. At the very least, we owed the Challenger Seven our commitment to continue their work, never forgetting that they sacrificed their lives so that we — not just Americans but humans — could literally discover new worlds.

But instead, we succumbed to paralysis. The space program became buried in bureaucracy, with passionless officials justifying their impotence with endless excuses in a misguided attempt to sanitize all risk. In doing so, we lost the edge that made us great.

And without a bold leader capable of reigniting the fire that blasted America into the history books, we continue to fall into the black hole of mediocrity, eclipsed by nations using the playbook from our glory days.

America has always a beacon of hope because, since our birth, we prioritized achieving the impossible: winning our freedom; defeating history’s worst tyrants; pioneering manned flight, and, perhaps most amazing, walking on the moon.

But that was then.

And now?

Because the shuttle program was killed with no replacement — a mind-blowing mistake which transcends political parties — America must now rely on the Russians to facilitate manned space flight, including accessing the International Space Station that was built by the U.S.

So it was entirely predictable that the Ruskies would play the space card. And they most certainly did, as Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated, “I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”

More than anything, that crystallizes just how far America has regressed.

Those who lived through the space race in the 1950s and 1960s will mistily recount how America was united while launching its boys into the great unknown. Were there political disagreements?

Sure, but reaching for the stars made folks realize that they could rise above petty arguments and work together for the greater good.

Pushing the limits of human ability and venturing into what was literally a dream for 50,000 years’ of humankind gave Americans the pride that they were indeed special, and that they weren’t just traveling through history, but making it.

America committed to seeing it through, no matter the cost. We were a nation driven to put ourselves atop the space race, and in doing so, become part of the most exciting time in all of civilization.

Alan Shepard opened the door to the final frontier a mere 58 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, an astounding achievement that taught humankind that no dreams were too big, and that men and women could aspire to do things greater than themselves. They literally made true the spirit that "the sky is the limit.”

And it is that ideal which should be the centerpiece of the 2016 presidential campaign, but sadly, is not. The election should be about grand ideas for what we will explore “up there”  — lofty goals that, when successful, will bring us together to solve terrestrial problems down here.

The massive popularity of movies such as Interstellar, Gravity, The Martian, and even Star Wars illustrates that audiences believe addressing eternal questions — Where did we come from? Are we alone? What’s out there? — are a crucial aspect of being human. And striving to answer those questions is eminently presidential.

In honor of the Challenger Seven and all who died pursuing the unknown, it’s time to launch a new era of American optimism into space.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.


 

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In honor of the Challenger Seven and all who died pursuing the unknown, it’s time to launch a new era of American optimism into space.
Challenger, Reagan, Space
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2016-26-28
Thursday, 28 Jan 2016 03:26 PM
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