Homer Hickam for The Wall Street Journal: The Commercial Space Age Has Begun

November 17th, 2011

Wall Street Journal
November 17, 2011

A Russian spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russians blasted off from Kazakhstan Monday in a flawless launch. The mission? Bring the International Space Station back to full strength. Sadly, now that our shuttles are relegated to museums, we have no way to launch our astronauts into space and must pay the Russians to do it for us.

As ironic as that is considering the history of the space race, hiring the Russians isn’t what hurts me the most. What’s painful is my conclusion that as a people, as a government, and as a country, we don’t seem to care if we can put astronauts into space or not.

How did we get to this sorry state? Where are those days when every American boy and girl dreamed of flying to the moon, Mars, the very stars; when an entire country was energized to set sail on a new ocean? President John F. Kennedy said it best in September 1962: “No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. . . . We mean to be a part of it—we mean to lead it!”

And we did. We put our sweat, intellect, money and the very souls of our astronauts into that marvelous enterprise—and succeeded. Who would have imagined that one July morning in 2011, when the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center, that America’s manned space program would come to an end?

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