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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The End of an Era

"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society." — James Madison

Today the space shuttle Atlantis landed marking the end of a thirty-year program of the United States, domination of space. The New York Times reports:

“The last space shuttle flight rolled to a stop just before 6 a.m. on Thursday, closing an era of the nation’s space program.

“Mission complete, Houston,” said Capt. Christopher J. Ferguson of the Navy, commander of the shuttle Atlantis for the last flight. “After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history, and it’s come to a final stop.”

It was the 19th night landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to end the 135th space shuttle mission. For Atlantis, the final tally of its 26-year career is 33 missions, accumulating just short of 126 million miles during 307 days in space, circumnavigating the Earth 4,848 times.”

This marks the end of an era where the United States led the world in space exploration and technology, an era of optimism, opportunity and technical achievements. According to the Times article:

“During the 13-day mission, Atlantis ferried 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station. With the retirement of the shuttles, the space station will now rely on Russian, European and Japanese rockets to bring up supplies.

NASA is also counting on two commercial companies, the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., and the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., to begin cargo flights next year.

For Atlantis, NASA will now begin the work of transforming it into a museum piece. It will be mounted nearby at Kennedy’s visitor center.”

Our leadership in space began in 1903 when the Wright Brothers made their first flight on the windblown sands of Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This leadership in aviation grew throughout the twentieth century as our aircraft industry began to dominate the fields of military and commercial aviation. Companies like Grumman, Lockheed, MacDonald Douglas and Boeing were producing aircraft that not only helped us win World War II, but brought us to the pinnacle in commercial aviation.

In 1961 President John Kennedy made a bold announcement that we would go to the moon in ten years and with the participation of the private sector we made it in eight with Apollo 11 landing on the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969. Those of us who were watched this event on television will never forget Neil Armstrong stepping down from the lunar lander Eagle and setting man’s first step ever on the surface of the moon as he proclaimed; "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

And it was one giant leap for mankind, a leap in optimism, science and technology. Countless technological advancement stemmed from the space program over the ensuing years — everything from microchips to thermal blankets. The art of program and project management blossomed and scientist and engineers worked as a team as never before. Thousands of businesses, large and small, were created as each new technological development was refined and released to the general public. Millions of jobs were created as these businesses grew and flourished. As the businesses and jobs grew so did the economy. It was a time of great technological progress that brought benefits to millions of people.

School children did not have to be encouraged to study math, science, physics and engineering. They saw the opportunities that these subjects would bring them in the free marketplace. They were motivated, not by government and academic pronouncements, but by the mere fact that they w

For 23 years I lived in a community in Westminster, California where many of my neighbors worked for MacDonald Douglas and Northrop, two of the larger aerospace contractors. They had good paying jobs, bought homes, sent their kids to school and college, took vacations and went shopping. All of this profited the economy at large. Everyone benefitted.

Of course there were the detractors, the progressives, who did not have the21shuttle1-cnd-articleLarge vision to see the benefits of the space program. They whined and decried he money being spent on space claiming the money should be spent on earth to help the poor, provide for better education and promote social justice. These small-minded people just could not see or understand of capitalism worked. They believed it was government’s role to spend this money on social programs and did not see the force multiplier that these dollars spent on space exploration would bring to the economy thus providing better paying jobs and opportunities for all. These are the same people we have today clamoring for social justice and wealth redistribution.

By contrast look at the Soviet space program. Their program was a communist run program that did nothing for their economy but spend money of government jobs. They never landed on the moon and the program did not benefit their people. Their state run industries could not compete with our free market system. Their economy suffered while ours flourished.

Over the years NASA lost their way. They became a bureaucratic agency with a budget of 18 billion dollars and 18,000 government employees. Many of the6261897-540-688 tasks once outsourced to small and medium sized businesses were now being done by their government, civil service staff to whom we are liable for lifetime pensions and health care. Simple tasks like surveying are now being done by NASA employees or by the employees of other government agencies like the National Geodetic Survey.

Also their mission changed over the years from space exploration to domestic programs such as climate monitoring and weather forecasting, things duplicating the activities of NOAA or the private sector. Under the Obama administration they have been tasked with social programs like advancing the participation of Islamic countries in the program — Islamic countries that did nothing to promote or advance space exploration or the development of technology.

Now we will leave the exploration of space to the Russians, to whom we shared our technology with. They will be charging us billions of dollars to send men into space. This will create no new jobs in he United States, in fact we will lose thousands of jobs. How crazy is this?

Soon it will be the Chinese and Indians who will take over the exploration of the universe and we will be related to second rate player in the space program while we become more and more addicted to social justice, social networking and wealth redistribution.

Today was the end of an era and a sad day to the United States.

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