Today is the 60th birthday of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA TV went off its regular schedule today. With bumpers featuring the current Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, plenty of “history films” have been shown. I had a bit of a realization while watching narrators like Peter Cullen and William Shatner tell the tales of Apollo and the Shuttle’s Return To Flight respectively.
Shatner’s film on Return to Flight noted how we would have something new for the USA to ride to space in lieu of the space shuttle. The problem is that in the years from the film’s creation, we never made such a new system. As a country we made a sad trade-off. Rather than explore low earth orbit and perhaps the stars, we threw money at a monstrous new health care bureaucracy that has yet to work right. We traded dreams of exploration for realities of an even worse health care experience that cost even more money.
As much as people freak out in DC over Russia, we must not alienate our only ride to the International Space Station that we helped lead building. Since our wings for space were basically clipped during the Obama years, SpaceX has far too slowly tried to build commercial capacity instead while re-learning lessons we already went through as a nation from 1958 to now. Until Mr. Musk gets it together, the US space program is reduced to hitchhiking now just as much as it was during the Obama years.
Some days I end up wondering where we could’ve been without the clipped wings we’ve had. Our big advances have been in mobile phone apps and in creating vast surveillance structures like Palantir Gotham. Turning as insular as we’ve had hasn’t been a good thing for overall scientific innovation seemingly.
Where is the spark we need to wake things back up? Where is my moon base? Why isn't Canonical on the moon instead of London?