“To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;” — Article I, Section 8.11 of the Constitution of the United States.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer calls the ceremonial interment of the shuttle Discovery an act of "willed American decline." He's certainly right about that. It is an historic retreat for America.
Mr. Krauthammer writes:
“As the space shuttle Discovery flew three times around Washington, a final salute before landing at Dulles Airport for retirement in a museum, thousands on the ground gazed upward with marvel and pride. Yet what they were witnessing, for all its elegance, was a funeral march.
The shuttle was being carried -- its pallbearer, a 747 -- because it cannot fly, nor will it ever again. It was being sent for interment. Above ground, to be sure. But just as surely embalmed as Lenin in Red Square.
Is there a better symbol of willed American decline? The pity is not Discovery's retirement -- beautiful as it was, the shuttle proved too expensive and risky to operate -- but that it died without a successor. The planned follow-on -- the Constellation rocket-capsule program to take humans back into orbit and from there to the moon -- was canceled in 2010. And with that, control of manned spaceflight was ceded to Russia and China.”
It was under John F. Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, that America was summoned to greatness. Frustrated by a series of Soviet "firsts" in space — first earth satellite (Sputnik), first man in space (Yuri Gagarin) — the young President Kennedy knew that his talk of "getting America moving again" would ring hollow if the Soviets bested us in space.
For the USSR, space was vitally important. Nikita Khrushchev was the Communist Party boss who had famously denounced his dead predecessor, Josef Stalin. Under Khrushchev, Stalin's embalmed remains were hauled out of Lenin's tomb, cremated, and buried in an obscure Kremlin grave. But how to legitimize Khrushchev's own dictatorship? How to show the world that Communism was the wave of the future? Space. For Nikita Sergeivich Khruschev, Marxism-Leninism would be validated by conquering space. Russian, not English, would be the first language spoken in the Cosmos. Cosmonauts, not Astronauts, would lead progressive mankind.
Khrushchev chose Yuri Gagarin to orbit the earth because Gagarin was a clean-cut, fit, and outspokenly atheist young Soviet pilot. When Gagarin came safely to earth, he told a press conference he had seen "nyet boga" up there. No God. One Soviet historian, Zheyva Sveltilova, told credulous Westerners that when the hammer and sickle conquer space, "people who now believe in God will reject him. Such belief won't be logical or natural. Man will be stronger than God."
It is noteworthy that the brave Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders — the first human beings to leave Earth orbit and travel to the Moon — did not reject God. In fact, they read from the Book of Genesis as their spacecraft orbited the Moon. On Christmas Eve, 1968, no less. And Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, celebrated Christian communion in the lunar lander as Neil Armstrong of Apollo XI took his famous "giant leap for mankind."
President Kennedy resolved to find that one goal that could inspire Americans and capture the imagination of mankind — and in an arena where he knew the United States could best its Communist adversary: the Moon. At a time when leading Republicans — Barry Goldwater; William F. Buckley, Jr. — carped that the effort to reach the Moon would be too costly, Kennedy's vision prevailed. He knew that being Number One in space would pay dividends on Earth. Surely, it has. The entire computer revolution we are living through was spurred by America's Moon landing.
The U.S. Earth satellite program began in 1954 as a joint U.S. Army and U.S. Navy proposal, called Project Orbiter, to put a scientific satellite into orbit during the International Geophysical Year. The proposal, using a military Redstone missile, was rejected in 1955 by the Eisenhower administration in favor of the Navy's Project Vanguard, using a booster produced for civilian space launches. Following the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the initial Project Orbiter program was revived as the Explorer program to catch up with the Soviet Union.
I can remember watching the attempted launch of the Vanguard missile with nu buddy, who at the time was working for a firm that was making the guidance system. As we watched the missile fire up, begin.to lift off the pad and them tip over and crash and burn I saw my friend’s face turn white with embarrassment at the Vanguard’s failure. The American public was very saddened by this failure and wanted much better results.
After the second failure of Vanguard the Eisenhower Administration tuned to the Army’s Redstone Missile program in Huntsville. Alabama. This program was being led by the repatriated Nazi V-2 rocket experts under the leadership of Werner Von Braun.
Explorer 1 was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), while a Jupiter-C rocket was modified by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) to accommodate a satellite payload; the resulting rocket known as the Juno I. The Jupiter-C design used for the launch had already been flight-tested in nose cone reentry tests for the Jupiter IRBM, and was modified into Juno I. Working closely together, ABMA and JPL completed the job of modifying the Jupiter-C and building Explorer 1 in 84 days. However, before work was completed, the Soviet Union launched a second satellite, Sputnik 2, on November 3, 1957. The U.S. Navy's attempt to put the first U.S. satellite into orbit failed with the launch of the Vanguard TV3 on December 6, 1957.
On January 31, 1958 at 22:48 Eastern Time the 31 pound Explorer I satellite was successfully launched and a little beeping satellite was now orbiting the earth. The United States was now in the space race whether we liked it or not and the carping and debate began. The most common carp was; “why do we want to spend money on space when we have so many problems here like poverty and lack of jobs.” On the other hand those with vision believed we had to make these expenditures for our national defense. If the Soviets could launch a 184 pound satellite how soon before they could put nuclear weapons into orbit and hold the world hostage to their totalitarian way of life.
In 1961 when President Kennedy made his famous go to the moon speech I was just a few years out of high school and thinking of moving to California, the land of sunshine and gold. At the time of his bold announcement the scientists and engineers did not have the slightest clue as to how they would accomplish this feat. With the exception of Jules Vern not many folks had thought about going to the moon and for what reason. After all there was no one living there and it was a very inhospitable place. What would be the value of this beside a great public relations exercise?
To go to the moon meant not only rockets and space vehicles it required a whole new way of thinking, project management, and above all industrial innovations. New metals would have to be developed, computers were needed, ground launching facilities were needed, and thousands of new engineers and technicians were needed. This meant high paying jobs and professional careers for kids still in high school. It meant learning math and science. It meant getting good grades. It meant an exciting future for those who wanted to learn and join the program. It also meant millions of job for construction workers and those entrepreneurs who would build and run the ancillary facilities around the new space launch and control facilities.
You may now be asking that while all this public works spending is good for the economy by what Constructional authority did Congress have to spend this money. In Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution there are three enumerated powers authorizing Congress to allocated funds for this space/defense program:
Section 8.12: To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
Section 8.13: To provide and maintain a navy;
Section 8.14: To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
Also the preamble itself states:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
In the common defense statement the framers wanted the new nation to be strong enough to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. This might be a difficult feat with soviet nuclear weapons orbiting above our planet.
This is one time I take issue with Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley. While they thought the moon undertaking was too expensive I believe this space/defense enterprise paid tremendous dividends with the technology and jobs that technology created. This in turn increased the tax base of the United States and gave us unbridled scientific and industrial leadership in the world. I can recall visiting our friends in Paris in 1978 with our family. Our Parisian friends had a 12-year old son at the time. Vincent had models of every rocket the United States had built and was enthralled with our space program. He thought the United States was the greatest industrial and scientific nation in the world. How do we rank today? Our youth want to pursue careers in psychology, women’s studies, and almost anything except engineering. Today we get our engineers from India, Pakistan, and other points east.
The spin off from the space/defense enterprise is too numerous to catalog. New meals and carbon fiber materials were developed that are commonplace in the auto industry today. Computer chips were developed and then improved, and improved to where they are today. The astronauts on Apollo 8 did not have the computing power of one of today’s $300 dollar notebooks that you can purchase at Best Buy, and their computers cost millions. A new way of exchanging information was needed so DARPA along with other universities and private companies developed a new way of sharing information. This effort morphed into something called the Internet, a utility we all use today and which has allowed numerous entrepreneurs to create millions of jobs and make billions of dollars.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) industry was another one of those spin offs from the space/defense undertaking. Developed for the Navy in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems GPS was intended to give our nuclear submarines exact positioning in case they needed to launch the missiles in anger. Although classified at its inception it did not take long for the technology genie of GPS to jump out of the bottle and become an everyday utility today. In 1973 the average person did not much care about latitude and longitude unless he was a sailor and then he had to rely on imprecise radio navigation or the methods Magellan or Columbus used to navigate the seas.
The GPS satellites were place in a safe orbit at 12,600 miles (20,200 Km) in order to keep them safe from enemy rocket attacks. The high orbit of the GPS satellites also allowed for the precise navigation and docking of space vehicles such as the space shuttle. Once again when the GPS genie was out of the bottle it did not take firms like Trimble, Magellan and Garmin to spring up making GPS gear for the private sector. Today the use of GPS is commonplace in land surveying, construction, navigation, and monitoring of crustal movement. Almost every new car on the market has a GPS navigation unit and even digital cameras and cell phone are equipped with GPS. When you take a photo with your GPS enabled camera of cell phone and use the appropriate computer application you can see exactly where you took your photo. Even my iPad has GPS. So who said the consumer did not care about longitude and latitude? He may not understand the tremendous amount of science and technology that went into GPS, but he or she sure likes to set their destination into his or hers auto navigation system to find the best driving route and watch the little icon travel along the road or find a place to eat along the way. And you can buy one of these navigation units for less than $200 toady.
Once again I harken back to those who objected about the moon program. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson pushed his war on poverty on the American people and in almost 50 years we have not eliminated poverty. At that time, the poverty rate in America was around 19 percent and falling rapidly. This year, it is reported that the poverty rate is expected to be roughly 15.1 percent and climbing. Between then and now, the federal government spent roughly $12 trillion fighting poverty, and state and local governments added another $3 trillion. Yet the poverty rate never fell below 10.5 percent and is now at the highest level in nearly a decade. Clearly, we have been doing something wrong.
On the other hand the moon project and other related scientific and technological programs have delivered millions of good paying jobs, created trillions in wealth, and created untold benefits to our civil society through the free market. Sometimes our vision is not too clear or far reaching. When man is given the knowledge and opportunity great things are possible. Our Founders knew this very well.
In his jaunty way, JFK said, "America has thrown her hat over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow." President Kennedy was right. The American Apollo program was one of the greatest events in all of human history. By turning our backs on JFK's achievement, we have consented to national humiliation and national decline.
An American astronaut was asked recently what advice she had for a young child interested in space. "Learn Russian," she said. Inspired by John F. Kennedy, America went to the Moon. On Kennedy's grave at Arlington the night of July 20, 1969, someone put a simple note: "The Eagle has landed." In the Age of Obama, the Eagle has fallen.