Several months ago, I used this space to make a case that the United States should commit to sending a man to Mars by the end of the decade. We need the Kennedy-esque goal for innovation, inspiration and morale.
Yet it seems with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s recent entrance into the space conversation, it is important to discuss some other reasons why space exploration is absolutely vital.
Gingrich took a lot of fire for the grandiose idea of a permanent moon colony by the end of the decade, but in this case, he is right.
There’s a list of reasons as long as “War and Peace” why he shouldn’t be president, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good ideas from time to time.
It might seem like a moon colony by 2020 might be unnecessary and extraordinarily expensive in a time when we’re contemplating drastic budget cuts, but a moon colony,
or a similar project, is exactly what we need.
We need it for innovation, inspiration and morale. We also need it, because we’re a frontier nation. It’s who we are. It’s who we’ve always been. We have to go into space and be the ones who establish a base on the moon and plant our flag on the red planet.
If we let China or Russia dominate the space race of the 21st century, it will be one giant step toward becoming a follower nation, a second tier power that only looks inward. We tried that in the 1920s and got the Great Depression and World War II.
Will it cost us blood and treasure to go back into space with a strong purpose?
Absolutely. But some things are worth it. It’s worth it, because it’ll create new technology, a generation of new scientists inspired by the images and will improve sinking American confidence.
It’s also worth it because we don’t know what’s out there. We have always been a
nation that goes boldly into the frontier. If we give that up because it doesn’t seem worth it right now, we’re giving up who we are.
You don’t always have concrete goals and perfect plans, but you know exploration is something you have to do. It’s in our DNA. It’s why we ask questions and have libraries flooded with books. We need answers. We need to see for ourselves.
But mostly, we have to go into the heavens because we’ve explored the known world. We have work to do perfecting it, but while we’re doing that, we need to send others onward.
Sam Seaborn from “The West Wing” put it best, and I’ll defer to him, because he also once said, “Good writers borrow from other writers.”
We should go back to the moon or to Mars “Because it’s next. Because we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill, and we saw fire, and we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the West, and we took to the sky. The history of man is on a timeline of exploration, and this is what’s next.”
The day we stop looking over the hill is the day we start dying out as a people. We can’t have gone to the moon in 1969 and said, “This is good enough; we’ve gone as far as we need to.”
We must continue to push the boundaries of our existence or we’ve given up. We do need a moon colony, no matter how silly it sounds in a pandering stump speech in west Florida.
We must go back to the moon and on to Mars, because it’s next. It’s the frontier, and we’re a frontier people. As Seaborn also said, no one is hungrier, colder or dumber, because we went to the moon.
Imagine what might have been if Columbus had never sailed to the New World or Lewis and Clark had never set out across Louisiana. What if we never climbed Mount Everest?
Exploration is a key part of our existence, and we can’t turn our backs on it, or we’ll lose a fundamental piece of our humanity. All of the balanced budgets and full stomachs in the world can’t make up for that.