(Cross-posted on The Stinging Nettle
Occasionally, only occasionally, a Republican will do the right thing. When he or she does, I like to be fair and mention it. All anger all the time may feel good while you're venting, but it doesn't do much for the national discourse or your stress level.
So, at first glance, I must commend the Bush Administration for doing what I always wished Clinton would do - set a timeline and funding for a mission to Mars.
That said, I am quite certain that Bush will figure out how to not follow through on what he said in his speech today. All while claiming credit for visionary leadership, of course. For evidence of that, see Africa, AIDS initiative, failure of.
I am also quite sure that the funding announced today, $1 Billion, is a drop in the bucket for what it will take. The shifting of $11 Billion from the moribund shuttle program is a good start, but it will take more. Doubtless, Dick Cheney will figure out a way to enrich Boeing and Halliburton with this money, but hell, someone has to build the rockets.
I am choosing to be optimistic today.
Humans must go further into space. Exploration is a fundamental calling of the human race. We learned to walk on two legs when we decided to come down from the trees to investigate the prairies. We moved around the world just to see what was over the next hill. Mars is the next hill.
I will spare you the hackneyed allusions to Manifest Destiny which, lets face it, is a euphemism for genocide. This exploration must be undertaken with the rest of the human race along with us. It's not a calling for America alone -- we couldn't afford it anyway. This administration must put aside its unilateralist impulses and make this a human quest, not an American one.
Spare me the lectures. I know there are important problems here at home. The money could be spent on healthcare, or education, or petroleum-free transportation options.
But, deep inside, I am still a little boy, listening to my "TO THE MOON" recordings. Hearing the voices of men who were heroes before I was born. Marveling at the picture of Earthrise, and wishing I was Tom Swift, Jr.
One of my favorite memories is of my father waking me up to watch the the Apollo-Soyuz mission takeoff in 1975, and telling me to remember it, because we probably wouldn't be doing anything like it for a long time to come. I remember waiting in 5th grade for the first Shuttle mission to launch. I remember coming in to band class in 10th grade, to hear of the Challenger disaster, and the heartsickness I felt watching Christa McAuliffe's mother's face on that horrible morning.
I am a space geek.
We must go forward. This nation needs a common goal. It needs an inspiration. A bunch of scientists floating around in a fancy metal tube for a few months is not inspirational. Getting them to Mars - MARS! - and back, that's something that I will be able to watch with my son and daughter, and enjoy the looks on their faces as they dream of what they could become.
I'm all for that. Even if Bush gets the credit.
(Plus, establishing a base on the moon could lead to the development of serpitilium-based G-Force converters, and I'm all for that, too.)