With tomorrow’s launch of the Space Shuttle, the age of manned space exploration, after more than 50 years, will officially draw to a close in America. It’s a sad day, and I think that it speaks volumes concerning where we are as a country. The optimism that we once had as a nation is gone. It’s been replaced by a palpable undercurrent of anti-intellectualism and fear. We live in a society where Creationism theme parks are being built, and politicians who state their belief in the science of global climate change are being driven from office. The defunding of NASA is just the most recent salvo in the battle.
The following clip concerning our decreasing support of space research comes from KWCH Television:
…And a country once willing to put 4 cents out of every federal dollar into NASA now spends about a half-cent, as America struggles with more-earthbound concerns such as job losses and health care.
“After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent,” wrote Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan in an op-ed this spring…
And things are getting worse, with the House Appropriations Committee calling $1.6 billion in cuts from NASA’s FY 2012 budget. This, among other things, would kill the James Webb Space Telescope, which, according to an article in the New York Times, was “designed to study the first stars and galaxies that emerged in the first hundred million years or so after the Big Bang.” (Who, after all, needs a tool to give us more inconvenient facts when we already know from the Bible that the Earth is only 6,000 years old?) Here’s a clip from the article:
…Astronomers reacted with immediate dismay, fearing that the death of the Webb telescope could have the same dire impact on American astronomy that killing the Superconducting Supercollider, a giant particle accelerator in Texas, did in 1993 for American physics, sending leadership abroad.
Canceling the Webb telescope would “have a profound impact on astrophysics far into the future, threatening U.S. leadership in space science,” said Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which would run the new telescope. “This is particularly disappointing at a time when the nation is struggling to inspire students to take up science and engineering,” he added…
By way of comparison, it’s worth noting that the $1.6 billion in proposed cuts to the NASA budget is approximately what we, the U.S. taxpayers, pay every five days to keep the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan going.
It’s also worth noting, I think, that NASA will continue to exist as an entity capable of delivering corporate and military satellites to space. So, it’s just the stuff that really matters that we’re eliminating – the stuff that would help us to unravel the mysteries of the universe, and discover other habitable planets.
There is good news, though… The rich will have their tax cuts.
This, for those of you who are interested, is what it looks like when the Dark Ages begin to take hold.
Here, for those of you who weren’t alive at the time, is audio from a better time, when Democratic Presidents had big ideas, and weren’t afraid to fight for science and education.