June 3rd is the 50th anniversary of Ed White’s space walk during Gemini 4. White, who was tragically killed a few years later during an Apollo training exercise, along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, became the first American to perform an EVA. If you’ve forgotten, or weren’t born then, enjoy the video:
A few years later, we landed on the moon. The entire world watched with us, and shared in America’s triumph.I was stationed in Spain at the time. The Spanish people had a special bond with the Apollo program, because one of the three Apollo tracking stations was located in the country. For a week, any American who walked into a bar or restaurant in the country was treated like royalty. And a few years after that momentous event, the Apollo program ended.
US manned spaceflight then focused on Skylab, the space shuttle, and the International Space Station.
Some have said that the shuttle was a mistake; that our efforts should have continued to explore and colonize the moon, and then turn outward to the planets.
Regardless, the space shuttle is a technological marvel, and further proof of the greatness of this nation, and what we Americans can accomplish once the goal is set before us.
President John F. Kennedy said, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on May 26, 1961, that America’s goal should be to “land a man on the moon, and return him safely to earth, before the end of the decade.” To many at what was then a fledgling NASA, the idea seemed impossible, if not preposterous.
Yet they succeeded.
When was the last time that an American president laid out such a direct challenge to the nation; or gave voice to such an audacious idea?
It’s been 50 years since Ed White walked in space; 45 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
Imagine if, after Columbus had discovered America in 1492, Europe had said, “OK, no more, been there, done that, nothing else to see, and besides, we don’t have the money to spend on these expeditions,” and instead turned to, say, a detailed exploration and mapping of the nearby Mediterranean.
And for the next 50 years not one single ship sailed west.
No John Cabot, no Real brothers, no Vespucci, no Verrazzano, no Gomes, no Cartier, no Balboa, no Cortes, no Vasco de Gama, no Pizarro. no Ponce de Leon, among many others.
We recently celebrated the retirement of the shuttle Discovery, and hundreds of thousands turned out to watch its final flight over Washington DC, en route to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum.
It was a wake. A joyous, festive one, but a wake nevertheless. For there has been, and is, no thought of what comes next.
Obama has done much to harm America, in his overt effort to “fundamentally transform” this nation. One of his biggest failures is a total lack of interest in the space program, and an inability to set any goals for America in space.
Oh wait. Excuse me, I am wrong. My bad.
In 2010, Obama directed NASA head Charles Bolden that his “foremost mission is to improve relations with the Muslim world.”
Yup, that’s worked really well.
Now, it is possible that in his efforts to close Gitmo, Obama wanted to establish a terrorist prison on the moon, or possibly just put them in permanent orbit around the earth.
(Though it’s hard to see how that could have worked, as facing Mecca while praying would be really, really difficult.)
Our next president must lay out a clear vision for America’s exploration of space, and put people in charge who can accomplish the goals.