Wednesday, December 03, 2003

When President Bush delivers a speech recognizing the centenary of heavier-than-air-powered flight December 17, it is expected that he will proffer a bold vision of renewed space flight, with at its center a return to the moon, perhaps even establishment of a permanent presence there. If he does, it will mean that he has decided the United States should once again become a space-faring nation. For more than 30 years America's manned space program has limited itself to low Earth orbit; indeed, everyone under the age of 31 — more than 125 million Americans — was born since an American last set foot on the moon.

The speech will come at a time when events are converging to force some important decisions about the future of American efforts in space. China has put a man in orbit, plans a launch of three Sinonauts together, and has announced its own lunar program. The space shuttle is grounded, and its smaller sibling, the "orbital space plane," may not be built. The International Space Station, behind schedule, over budget, and of limited utility, has been scaled back post-Columbia.

The content of the speech does not appear to be in doubt; the only question is timing. While those who have formulated it have argued that it be delivered on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, there exists a slight possibility that it will instead be incorporated in the State of the Union address at the end of January. This has its own, less triumphant, significance, which is in the form of a chilling coincidence. Every American who has died in a spacecraft has done so within one calendar week: The Apollo 204 fire on January 27, 1967; the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986; and the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

Interesting, really, although later in the article it mentions that Bush Sr. was pushing for exactly the same thing back in '89. His father's war, his father's attempt at immortality...maybe he'll slip it to Barbara the next time she heads down to Crawford.

Regardless, I'm liking this one. We need to get the motherfuck off this planet and make some headway into space, and so long as the gov't is grabbing $$ left and right, some of 'em might as well go to something cool (although I shudder to think what kind of thoughts the military has about all this, and about what they could put into orbit; remember that Jr., before everybody on the fucking planet started laughing at him, was a vocal proponent of the Star Wars SDI program -- ah, the Reagan years; the kid really doesn't have an original thought in his head, does he?), as opposed to crappy medicare bills and endless flights in Air Force One.

Right, moving on.

Y'know, it's funny, but still make me slightly nauseous when someone refers to Jr. as President Bush. Just wanna smack 'em.


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