Monday, April 25, 2011
April 25, 2011
"'Bye, 'bye, Miss American sky, / Drove my shuttle to the levy, but the levy was dry...." or something like that. The American program of manned space flights is ending.
The Obamas will be going to the Kennedy Space Center this week to sit with injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as she watches her husband, Navy Captain Mark Kelly, pilot Endeavor toward the International Space Station. It's the next to last American flight; the last one is planned for June. Once upon a time, there were plans for rockets, the Ares I and Constellation, to succeed those now in use. Those plans have been cancelled. An American may occasionally hitch a ride into space, on a Russian space craft, but that's it.
I remember when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. I was covering the story for CBS News at the Manned Spacecraft Center just outside Houston. If you'd asked the masses of NASA employees and reporters who were there that day, do you think we'll go on to Mars, I suspect every hand in the place would have gone up. We were all wrong, of course. We won't be going--not anytime soon anyway. Armstrong spoke of his walk then as "one small step for a man, a giant leap for all mankind." Okay, but we never leapt again.
It's a hard choice, of course. America is deeply in debt. Presidents must choose--try to feed the hungry, help the poor, or roam the planets. No easy answers, that's for sure. Feeding the hungry, helping the poor should come first but, oh my, I'd have loved watching a Mars landing.