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We Do It Not Because It Is Easy, But Because It Is Politically Convenient

January 14th, 2004

The American space program has always been a popular endeavor with the people of this country. Aside from the excitement, pride and sense of wonder, Americans have long heard of the economic and scientific benefits of the program. When people see and hear about missions like the current Spirit rover on Mars, there is a surge of public interest.

So you can count on George W. Bush to suck all the interest out of it. Bush, who somehow convinced the American people that his tax cuts really benefitted the middle class, who made 70% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11–this same master huckster has managed to make Americans apathetic about a mission to the Moon and to Mars. But then, with Bush, one can easily imagine that he has wealthy aerospace contractors lined up somewhere to take some lucrative government contracts, or some large research firms that contributed big-time to his campaign waiting to be awarded big research projects from which they can keep the patents and capitalize on them. Or, more likely, people feel that Bush simply sees an opportunity to make a popular speech about a lofty goal during an election year, a goal that (like AIDS help in Africa) will turn out to be poorly funded and will be dropped after its political usefulness has expired. Or maybe Bush just botched this sales job, having floated too many trial balloons, letting the air out of the enterprise before an official announcement could be made.

We need to get back into space. We need to go to Mars. A true revival in the space program could indeed help us achieve new technological advances that could spur industry growth, and American contractors could create substantial, well-paying jobs to get the mission off the ground. And we do need a common, peaceful, adventurous goal to unite us and inspire us.

But Bush is not the man to get it done, or to make people believe that it is true. He can make us believe from fear or greed–he is masterful at manipulating those feelings within us. But the man cannot inspire true wonder or the spirit of adventure. As much as I hope for the program to come alive, even if Bush is the one to get credit for it, I simply have no confidence that he can actually do something so worthwhile in earnest. Not to mention the fact that Bush has already broken the piggy bank and spent our grandkids’ last dollar on his tax cuts for rich people and on his botched war in Iraq.

The space program deserves better. Just don’t let Bush reflect badly upon it.

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  1. January 15th, 2004 at 10:30 | #1

    Very nicely put…Bush is a president who thrives on FUD (fear, uncertainty and disorder) and is not the sort of person to inspire anything genuine in anyone.

    And I think what you’re saying is that all this space exploration talk lately is “vaporware” =o?

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