Sometimes, small steps don’t work.

President Obama appointed a blue ribbon panel to study our space program, and make recomendadtions to him.  Prior to this panel being formed, the Office Of Management And Budget stripped 3 billion dollars a year out of the proposed NASA budgets for the next few years, probably as a way of saving money during this economic crisis.

As a result, under the current budget numbers, NASA cannot do any space exploration.  There is barely enough money to keep the International Space Station in operation, and only for a few more years.  There is no money to develop any kind of new space craft, in spite of the space shuttle being scheduled for retirement next year.  The only way that Americans will be able to get to the space station is if they ride in Russian space craft.

Now, saving money is a good thing, and there are many ways that the US government could save money.  The money being taken away from our space program is only three billion dollars, a tiny fraction of the total US budget.  But that three billion dollars was all that had been allocated for building new rockets and space craft to take us to the Moon.

Space exploration is not like building a highway, where construction can simply be halted for years at a time.  Without continuous investment, the investment that we have already made becomes worthless, because it must be maintained.  If NASA gets rid of the International Space Station, and lets it fall into the ocean, they will have the money to begin building new space craft.  But there will be no where for those new space craft to go.  Even if new space craft were to be built in the next few years, there is no money to design and build equipment to use exploring the Moon.

Without investing in the future, it is unlikely that the future is going to be better than today.  We as a nation have several trillion dollars invested in various businesses, and our national government is now spending over one trillion dollars a year.  What is needed to fund a sound, practical program of exploration beyond Earth is a fraction of one percent of our budget, less than is spent on cosmetics in this country every year.

If we cannot resolve to spend a few billion dollars to expand the sphere of human activities, the United States is not going to be sending people into space much longer.  Other countries will be, but not the US.  More wealth than has been created in all of human history awaits us off planet, where energy and resources are free for the taking.   Don’t we want to be a part of that bonanza?

Even more importantly, the solutions to many of our environmental problems will not be found until we turn our eyes away from the Earth and look beyond it for what we need.  We do not have to figure out how to make steel without polluting the environment if we can figure out how to make steel outside the environment.

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