Sunday, September 30, 2007

NASA opts out of space race

Too bad, so sorry:

Recently, during an address on the space economy to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the space age, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin made the assertion that China would beat the United States to the Moon. His remarks follow:

"I personally believe that China will be back on the Moon before we are. I think when that happens, Americans will not like it, but they will just have to not like it. I think we will see, as we have seen with China's introductory manned space flights so far, we will see again that nations look up to other nations that appear to be at the top of the technical pyramid, and they want to do deals with those nations. It's one of the things that made us the world's greatest economic power. So I think we'll be reinstructed in that lesson in the coming years and I hope that Americans will take that instruction positively and react to it by investing in those things that are the leading edge of what's possible."

The good old American can't-do attitude. Jerry Pournelle says: "Honest, not astonishing: but why isn't it astonishing?" We went to the moon, and then could not think of how to go on. Social programs are more important than the Universe. We could rule the sky, but would rather pass programs like the proposed S-CHIP, which will provide government health insurance to people who can afford to buy their own; or Hillary!'s plan to give $5ooo to every newborn. Never mind defending the high ground, we have enough to do in the valley. This is decadence. Or is it just corruption and …? Considering how much money has been coming into American politics from China in the last dozen years or so, Al Gore and the Buddhist nuns, Charlie Trie, Johnny Chung and the sale of missile technology (dismissive WaPo summary), and of course Norman Hsu, who at this time needs no link, one might easily fall victim to a conspiratorial notion that a portion of America's governing class has sold the High Frontier for easy money. Although it certainly could be just bureaucratic sclerosis. If flying shuttle missions and maintaining the clapped-out International Space Station is all they can think of to do, because they have lost sight of the goal, which is to enable free humans to spread through the Solar System, then they'll keep on doing it till the last shuttle blows up and the space station disintegrates in orbit. Men will go to space; but no law of nature requires that they be Western, or free.

We need a Delos D. Harriman, and soon. Maybe Jeff Bezos will do it. I hope so.

1 comment:

chickelit said...

Americans might complacently watch the Chinese return to the moon, but it seems less likely we'd let them beat to Mars. Hell, we might even embrace von Braun's martian (or was it martial?) vision.

Thanks for the link Hector.