Monday, January 14, 2008

Are we there yet?

It sounds like something your kids might say to you when you are driving the 2000 miles to grandmas house. But this is no trip to Grandmas. After 50 years of the Space Race, we have no men on the moon permanently, no moon base, no mars exploration and certainly no 18 month trip to Jupiter as depicted in the books and movies 2001 and 2010.

It almost makes you want to ask NASA the proverbial question, "Are we there yet?" But of course, now they are pushing plans back due to internal issue and conflicts of interest in plans. To the outside viewer, it looks like a three ring circus. To the media, it is more fodder for the anti-NASA people who want the government agency shut down. And to the space advocate, it is just an absolute disaster.

Originally, we were supposed to have a huge space station in orbit. We have lifted little more than a 3 bedroom apartment. Problems with parts and software keep the shuttles grounded. Losing a shuttle or two also does not help matters. It keeps everyone going in circles. What happened to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo era "Can Do" type attitude that everyone in the programs had.

In spite of the failures, we still got things up there and managed to go all the way to the moon and back. Today, I doubt we could get a box car halfway down a hill with the way the program is run. Its just that bad. Space is no longer the sought after materials for the school children. In the 1960's and 1970's, if you asked a kid what they wanted to be when they grew up, a good percentage would say Astronaut. Now we cant even get kids interested in the sciences so the percentage of qualified applicants has waned to a point of near disaster.

If nothing is done with NASA to kick them in the seat of the pant, we could lose out on the technological advantage that has driven America for the last 100 years. The Japanese and the Chinese are now the ones pursuing the moon and doing very well with it I might add. We need to get the "Go fever" back and take the chances. Take the risks and get the people there and back.

Whoever becomes the next vice president will have a hard job of putting some pride back in the program at NASA and if he or she cant get the President on board, it will be an absolute that NASA will no longer exist as we know it within 10 years.

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