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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Will landing men on the moon help Make America Great Again?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

No, these words are not a reference to a fairy tale or even the prologue to another Star Wars sequel. Instead, they’re intended to foster a look back to a period in American history when human beings regularly slipped the Moon landingssurly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.

It’s hard to imagine in our current hyper-partisan, everything-is-political world but there was a time in America when something like the space program united our people. Back then, the prospect of combining the country’s best mathematical and scientific minds with the frontier exploration spirit that’s guided the expansion of this nation since its earliest days was exhilarating and beneficial at the same time.

Perhaps starting with astronaut Alan Shepard’s becoming the first American in space (in May of 1961), our countrymen fell in love with space exploration. The Mercury program of the early 60’s eventually gave way to the Gemini series of spaceflights in the mid 60’s which led to the ambitious Apollo moon landing expeditions in the late 60’s/early 70’s and then to Skylab, the Space Shuttle, Space Station, etc…

Somewhere along the line, however, the concept of having human beings in space lost its novelty in the public’s eye and its luster along with it. The astronomical costs associated with keeping individuals alive beyond the earth’s atmosphere combined with the obvious dangers (as evidenced by two spectacularly visible Space Shuttle disasters) and the comparatively inexpensive safety and ease of robot technology sapped much of the buzz surrounding blasting men and women beyond earth’s gravity.

These days it seems we barely hear anything about the manned space program. I think the most notable recent example was when President Trump tweeted something about astronauts demonstrating how to “recycle” their urine into drinking water back in April.

But thanks to President Trump America’s manned space exploration imagination drought could be ending soon. Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner reported the other day, “President Trump will sign a policy directive Monday setting in motion the return of U.S. astronauts to the moon...

“Trump will instruct the NASA administrator ‘to lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars,’ White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

“’The [p]resident listened to the National Space Council’s recommendations and he will change our nation’s human spaceflight policy to help America become the driving force for the space industry, gain new knowledge from the cosmos, and spur incredible technology,’ Gidley said.”

This new project appears to be right up Trump’s alley, a big concept where he can get things rolling simply by issuing an executive order directing something be done and expecting answers and results from those in charge within a short period of time. Trump has proven over and over again to not be the kind of leader who settles for the usual snail-like bureaucratic timelines so it will be interesting to see how much patience he’s able to muster when he’s informed that a government employee union or some contractor is demanding this or that in order to stay on the job.

I’m sure a lot of people are seeing this and saying “Uh-oh, another big government program,” right? If it were anyone but Trump providing the inspiration I’d be concerned the country was about to embark on another extravagant political boondoggle whose end goal was to verify the existence of global warming or was created specifically to foster a transgender trailblazing human experience in space or perhaps to conduct the first ever same-sex marriage in zero gravity.

That’s not to say the new program couldn’t – or won’t -- devolve into such politically correct nonsense, but for now the notion of returning humanity to the moon sounds like a great idea. In a world where there simply aren’t many events compelling Americans to think positively as a united people anymore, maybe going back to the moon will be one of them.

It beats getting into another war, right?

Unsurprisingly the news of Trump’s space announcement engendered very little coverage or highlight from the media. It seems reporters and pundits would much rather hash over Roy Moore’s dating preferences from the 1970’s than recall great feats of American achievement from roughly the same time frame (this should provide some perspective on just how long ago all of Moore’s supposed misdeeds took place).

The final Apollo moon landing took place in December, 1972, and the nineteenth of this month marks the 45th anniversary of the completion of the last mission sending men to earth’s lone satellite and returning them safely back to earth. Apollo 17 also marked the final utilization of the famed Saturn V rocket, the most powerful propulsion system ever built. The Saturn V was created to blast large payloads into deep space. I was told on a visit to Kennedy Space Center (in central Florida) one time that the U.S. no longer possesses the capability to accomplish such a thing…and I wondered, why?

If the government back then contained the “Right Stuff” to dream big dreams and build massive machines capable of realizing those ambitious visions, where did we go wrong in losing that ability?

The answers are many. The immense cost overruns and delays associated with the Space Shuttle program (originally projected to be the first regularly deployed reusable space vehicle) along with its moderately invisible benefits slowly eroded public support for space exploration. For years it almost seemed like the only headlines the shuttle engendered were from its notorious failures, such as killing two separate crews almost exactly seventeen years apart (1986 and 2003).

Sure, there were always images of happy frolicking astronauts doing “normal stuff” in space and an untold number of satellites launched from the shuttle’s payload compartment (including the famous Hubble Space Telescope), but critics quickly pointed out most of the benefits could just as readily be realized through use of earthbound launch systems at a fraction of the overall cost. A plethora of scientific studies were conducted by astronauts in space but wouldn’t the semi-permanent international space station offer the same opportunities?

Further, elaborate Hollywood Sci-Fi productions almost served to supplant the excitement of “real” space exploration for younger folks. Greater sophistication in film making made traveling through space at tremendous speeds seem routine and rather boring compared to the Star Wars-like heroes, freakish villains and laser battles. Did Darth Vader vaporize interest in the space program?

Besides, “real” space missions proved to be incredibly dangerous and risky. NASA didn’t handle the post Columbia-disaster public relations very well when engineers revealed they’d already suspected the crew might be doomed before meeting their ultimate fate – and that nothing could have been done to save them in any case.

The movie “Apollo 13” was a huge box office hit in 1995 – we saved those guys, couldn’t we do something similar to “fix” a fatally wounded but still life sustaining shuttle in orbit too?

Whatever the reason, America undeniably lost its space mojo. The Iraq War came and Americans lost interest in devoting billions to explore space when trillions were needed to pacify the Middle East. Then Barack Obama was elected and the already crippled space agency’s focus was directed more towards appeasing foreign populations and assessing earthly crackpot theories (such as verifying “climate change”) instead of reaching for the heavens.

Yes, Obama politicized space too. No shock there.

Longtime Capitol Hill veteran Art Harman concluded in a treatment on the subject for the Capitol Research Center (updated last year in advance of the election), “President Obama, John Holdren, Lori Garver, and James Hansen have succeeded in their apparent mission to convert NASA’s bold exploration and scientific mission into yet another left-wing propaganda-spewing agency. As House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) observed at a 2014 hearing, ‘there are 13 other agencies involved in climate-change research, but only one that is responsible for space exploration.’

“The next president must halt the ideological war at NASA and work with Congress to provide the funding to unleash the engineers and astronauts who will rebuild America’s leadership in space and high technology for the next generation. The goal should be an ‘American exceptionalism’-style space program that would truly earn the name given in the Augustine Commission’s report: ‘a human spaceflight program worthy of a great nation.’”

Harman’s article is very long and detailed. If you want to understand how Obama systematically turned NASA into the epicenter of the American government’s outreach to the Muslim world, it’s well worth reading in its entirety.

The gist of the Harman’s argument is this: NASA is a shadow of its former self and it will take someone with the vision and can-do attitude of Trump to get the agency back to doing what it once did so well – capturing the public’s attention while undertaking great things. Let’s hope it’s still possible.

That’s not to say great things aren’t still being completed in space. For example, just recently American engineers successfully corrected a problem on the Voyager 1 spacecraft, another four decade old relic from the 1970’s that’s still functioning and sending data to be studied.

Gerald D. Skoning wrote in The American Spectator, “The Voyagers story is a remarkable one. In 1977 (significantly, the year the box office smash hit Star Wars was released), the twin spaceships Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, 16 days apart. In September 2013, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, entering interstellar space.

Voyager 2 lags behind, but according to NASA, the spacecraft is following the lead of the first Voyager and is on course to enter interstellar space in the coming years. The pair are still exploring the outer solar system and continue to communicate with Earth daily…

“What wonders of modern science and engineering excellence those two little, nearly forgotten spacecraft are… stunning examples of American exceptionalism.”

Yes indeed. It’s hard to comprehend just how far away these manmade pieces of metal with artificial intelligence are from us at this very moment. And just think, they were conceived of in the years prior to the internet, smart phones or social media. Donald Trump was turning 30 at the time…over half a lifetime ago.

Kids have a hard enough time these days figuring out how many quarter pound hamburgers should result from 36 ounces of beef – how can they ever fathom much less appreciate the mathematical skill it took to concoct and maneuver a spacecraft that’s now over 13 billion miles away from us?

Thinking big used to be a universal requirement for leaders of government, something we’ve steadily gotten away from in recent times. President Trump believes we can regain the same spirit that drove Americans to land men on the moon in the 60’s – here’s speculating he’s right again.

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Return to Moon

Not only is it inspirational to take on so majestic a project as returning to the Moon but it is ultimately something that will profit the United States. I wrote an article at Canada Free Press about the benefits of returning to the Moon (and harvesting Helium 3, a very valuable substance). See my article here.

And a recent article in the U.K. Daily Mail illustrates perfectly why we should go back into deep space; there is money to be made, and why shouldn't America be the ones to get it rather than the Chinese or Russians? See, this one asteroid could, well, according to the Daily Mail, crash the world economy if we were to harvest all the metals from its once.

America should be leading the world in space exploration but more importantly in space development and industry. This will not sit well with the Left, who want us to adopt "sustainability" which is code for an economy that does not grow. They want us to accustom ourselves to doing with less, having less, living poorly. They have never gotten past Malthus and the Club of Rome study. Whenever we do anything - like land multiple spacecraft on Mars - liberals complain about our "finding a whole new planet to mess up" as I've seen many of them do. They want us poor, uncomfortable, and miserable. But there is wealth beyond our wildest dreams in reach if we are bold and willing to think outside the box - and take a few risks.

Going back to the Moon should ultimately be intended to build settlements there, and to ultimately build the infrastructure we need to mine asteroids and whatnot. Some people think we should put a man on Mars, and it's a fine idea, but just going there is extremely expensive, dangerous, will take the better part of a year just to get there, and the mission would be out of real-time communications as the speed of light time lag can last between three and nine minutes each way. The Moon is close; just a quarter million miles away, a three day jaunt. We need to go back there, with the intent of staying awhile.

Three cheers for Trump, who clearly understands all of this. Who better than a Real Estate mogul to grasp the importance of getting in on the ground floor.

Timothy Birdnow