KNOE Editorial

Posted on March 7, 2013

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Another KNOE AM 540 on-air editorial by yours-truly, originally aired August, 2005. 

I was reminded of this piece after perusing the piling-on of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams after he said, “As a great man once said, I yield to no one. I love this country. I love the American idea. I have profound disappointments in my country. I feel we ought to be in space … because it meant so much to us … technologically. It moved us along.”

If feeling that way makes you unpatriotic, then Brian Williams and I are in the same boat. 

My generation, the Gen X’ers entering middle age today, are the last to appreciate the marvels, the wonders of human space travel. 

After sending six teams of astronauts to walk on the moon America came home and never left orbit again and today we hitch rides to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz rockets, the spaceship equivalent of an International Harvester pickup truck.

Maybe I’m being a little Pollyanna here, but I think America would be a different country, a better country, if we watched MANNED missions to Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system, if we witnessed MANNED missions to near Earth asteroids and can you imagine the pride of an International Moon Base?

These aren’t science fiction fantasies, we sent three men to the moon almost 50 years ago! This could be our reality today, if only we hadn’t been so damned short-sighted.

Because as with so many American ideals and dreams, our national cynicism seems to have triumphed and profits, not pride, equal patriotism in America as it relates to space travel.

I felt that way when I wrote this eight years ago as America prepared to return to space after the Columbia disaster –

The countdown clocks at the Kennedy Space Center came to life for the 1st time in 2 ½ years this past Sunday.  The first time since the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia.  I’ve heard some very smart people whom I normally agree with on most things say that the US could find a better use for the billions of dollars that support the US space program.

I feel and have always felt that our space program deserves the respect and support of all Americans.  The United States of America remains and will always be at least in most of our lifetimes, the only country in the planet’s history that has sent another human being to walk on the face of another world. 

If the national pride of that does not appeal to you then perhaps you should consider the benefits that the space program has given – not just our own country, but to/for the benefit of all humankind. 

Imagine a world w/o satellites to bring us scenes from around the world as clear as if they were broadcast from the KNOE tower right here in our backyard. 

Do you use a cordless drill or shrub trimmer? How about a Dust buster vacuum? 

Did you know that the technology that made these products possible came from NASA’s Apollo program?  How about smoke detectors and water filters? 

The work of NASA has brought us the hi tech artificial limbs of today, laser heart surgery, pill sized transmitters and digital mammography’s for breast cancer detection. 

How about firefighter breathing systems and the jaws of life rescue tools that we see employed by rescue teams on TV? 

From crop management technology for US farmers to safer helmets for football players and racecar drivers NASA has been improving the quality of life for all Americans since its inception. 

So I encourage you to watch the shuttle launch at 2:50PM this Wednesday afternoon and the next time you hear someone complaining about their tax dollars funding the space program remind them that from skin products like Avon and Estee Lauder to insulation in the walls and ceilings of our homes to lightning insulation for electrical products, the United States Space Program and NASA have worked to improve life for Americans and indeed all mankind for almost 50 years. 

Don’t get wrong, the robotic missions are incredible to behold and I take great pride in my country’s vast foot print across our solar system.  It’s mind boggling that Voyager 1, a space probe launched in 1977 when I was just a few years older than my 4 year old son, is now leaving the solar system and entering interstellar space but still dutifully sending new information back to Mother Earth. 

But nothing will replace the pride Americans felt for the Apollo missions until we become explorers again, until we journey once more into the void, we’ll never feel the aspirations, the childlike wonder of ‘what if’ again.

And until every new US president stops breaking the promises made by his predecessor to NASA, until Americans care enough to demand action from the dunces in DC, the prospects for manned space exploration beyond near-Earth orbit will remain bleak.

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