Space’s Greatest Spin-off
Why should we continue the space program? Space exploration represents vision–and without vision, “We the people” will perish.
One must realize that it takes leadership to produce vision and real leaders make up a small minority of the population. Thus, a leader has to be strong enough to make decisions that are oftentimes contrary to the majority opinion. Sometimes, history praises that leadership; sometimes it condemns it. But it is vision that creates and/or changes the course of mankind. Leadership without proper vision is a disaster.
One thing the visionary realizes is that the compound effect of doing little things over time will produce great results. For instance, the first liquid fueled rocket engine was created in 1927 and 42 years later we were walking on the moon!
Secondly, the visionary determines if the vision is based on sound principles and will have positive effects for the majority in the future. Once that determination is made, then the leader must take the stand for implementation of the vision. Our forefathers had enough vision to write: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of life and liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Using this statement as a litmus test for our investments in space, it seems to hit the mark on every constitutional criterion. It “ensures domestic tranquility,” it “provides for our common defense,” and it most certainly promotes “the general welfare” for ourselves and the generations that follow. The question we must ask is, “Where would we be without this visionary investment in our future?”
In 1960, John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to go to the moon within the decade. This audacious vision created excitement and fear simultaneously. Yet, people of vision know that you must continue to grow and expand your limits in order to prosper in the future. You must keep pushing the limits of exploration and I don’t say that because I live in Brevard County. Honestly, the economy of Brevard County will survive either way. But the space program is larger than Brevard County; mankind will be negatively impacted if we stop exploring. Though the average person will not see the benefits of spending money today on going to Mars, his children will benefit.
The list of space-related benefits and technologies seem to be endless, because the vision to explore continues to stretch us to new horizons. This boundless quest for exploration and understanding should have no limits. It took vision for Columbus to sail when the majority thought the world was flat. What about the vision of the Wright brothers to create the first heavier-than-air flying machine? Their father thought that flight of that type was impossible. Their first flight went a few hundred feet and today we carry 400 people in a single aircraft across the oceans in just a few hours.
They were all exploring beyond the confines of what was considered possible. That’s why we must go to Mars – because most people think it has no value and believe it can’t be done and yet the potential and discoveries it could unleash are unimaginable. What is the answer with respect to continuing space or not? The answer is simple: “You are either growing or dying.” We must continue the programs that force us to grow.
The struggle comes when the people who lack vision become leaders or influencers of our future. Isn’t it interesting that a Republican, Eisenhower, established NASA but saw no benefit for space exploration. Yet, his successor, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, saw the vision of space. Now the future of space is left to another Democrat; is he a visionary who sees the future with clarity and benefits to mankind? Or, will we relinquish our position as a world leader and be left in the wake of progress? A review of history will quickly show that party affiliation has no monopoly on vision; vision rests in the souls of the individual. The real soul of President Obama will be shown in the decision on space, not healthcare reform.
We need to measure the success of our day based on the seeds we plant, not the harvest we gather. The seeds of exploration must continue to be planted in order for our society to continue to reap the benefits of the harvest in future generations. Discovery is not an event, it’s a process. It took only 42 years to go from invention to walking on the moon; what is in store for our next 40 years?