This is a difficult admission for me but recent declarations perpetrated by a certain presidential candidate who I believe is a sociopath with megalomaniacal leanings has prompted me to come out of the closet, so to speak. I freely admit to the world that I am an unrepentant “Space Cadet.” All my life I have been an avid fan and supporter of NASA, manned space flight, and the belief that humanity’s future is out among the stars.
Out of all the nerdy burdens I have had to carry all through my life the term Space Cadet is the one that has brought me the most grief and outright ridicule. The blame for this condition probably rests with me being a highly impressionable child during the heyday of the Apollo program and the original Star Trek television series. Some of my clearest memories of that time have me watching American astronauts both walking and later four wheeling on the moon. Often times by the end of that day I would be tuning into the interstellar adventures of Kirk and Spock kicking butt and exploring “strange new worlds.”
When I have had time to ponder what made me this way I imagine some caveman ancestor of mine sitting outside the tribal cave gazing off towards the horizon and wondering what the hell is on the other side of the mountains he sees in the distance. I have to figure that if my ancient predecessor had half the wanderlust I feel at some point he probably up and left everything behind to go find out. Obviously he survived long enough to hook up and make a few babies with some hot cave lady from another tribe before becoming a snack for a saber tooth cat or a meal for unfriendly locals but since I am not the sharpest knife in any drawer I doubt he was successful much beyond that.
In other words, the idea and excitement of exploration of new frontiers is encoded in my very DNA. For my liberal tendencies I figure Roddenberry is the blame since the moral and ethical dilemmas Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew had to face while exploring the galaxy were great lessons in human compassion and understanding that have stayed with me all my life.
For me the cancellation of both the Apollo program and Star Trek was a testament to how the optimistic but troubled 1960’s were replaced by the overly realistic and preoccupied 1970’s. The overwhelming refrain from that era involved the argument that federal dollars were being wasted on space exploration when we were engaged in the Cold War with the Soviets and fighting a war on poverty and drugs here in America.
Hey I admit it, those voices were largely right, big bucks were going to a whole bunch of questionable projects and in a far more perfect world all that money would have gone to cure sickness and end poverty. The only problem with the argument about bucks being wasted on space exploration was that even in the heyday of sending men to the moon NASA’s percentage of the federal budget was very small potatoes compared to the money going to defense and social entitlements.
However, priorities had to be set so I understand why the space program was paired down to the barest minimum. Just enough was left operating so we could save face and not let anyone get the idea we were ceding the ultimate high ground to the nasty commies. The grandiose plans to follow up the Apollo missions with a lunar base and sending astronauts to Mars were put on a permanent hold.
The shuttle program has come and gone without any operational replacement to get Americans up into orbit. This has forced NASA to cough up about fifteen-million a person so our guys and gals can hitch a ride in their old but dependable Soyuz, an embarrassing situation for a country that prides itself on its extraordinary “Exceptionalism” as compared to the rest of the planet.
However, while things look bleak for certified Space Cadets like me things are changing for the better if you look close enough. Several upstart corporations are pushing the developmental envelop which in a couple of years should offer Americans a range of advanced launch systems to get back into space. On second thought may I should have said things were looking good until the self-proclaimed savior of Western Civilization arrived on the Space Coast of Florida last week.
This small and strange man stood on a podium and promised to not only establish a lunar base within the period of his two-term limit but also make it an actual colony. He then went deeper into his delusions by saying this settlement could achieve statehood once it had a population of thirteen-thousand souls. While that little sanctimonious bastard has about a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected president of the United States thank God in Heaven for a Constitutionally mandated two-term limit.
The space program has long suffered from a giggle factor among the general, non-geek, population not enamored with space exploration. The last few years there were some signs that this giggle factor was dying out as people became more aware of the real benefits associated with the space program but in one swift move, that little man has returned it all to the subject of jokes and outright derision. If anyone needs to be sent to the moon to establish a lunar settlement it is that joke of a man and his android looking wife.
Just for giggle here are a few Space Cadet organizations that are seriously pushing into the final frontier:Mars Society
Scorpius Space Launch Systems
Hopefully one will be cheap enough one day for your truly to ride into orbit, that way it will be easier for the Mother Ship to pick me up. Long Live and Prosper y'all.