Saturday, June 23, 2007

Blame it on Nixon


Why haven't we gone back to the moon? or landed on Mars? Why 38 years after first landing on the Moon and 35 years since we last set foot on another world have we not left low Earth orbit with a manned craft? The answer lies in the troubled world that was Richard Nixon's presidency. Despite having the good fortune of being in office when the first manned landing by a human (an American) on another world occurred Nixon didn't seize the momentum or chart his on next steps for the American space program. Nixon was too preoccupied with the Vietnam War, later Watergate, but always about his own insecurities. For him, landing on the Moon accomplished the dream of his political enemy JFK. Nixon wanted the NASA budget cut and a cheaper solution found. He positioned it as a new era of space travel, but he really couldn't have cared less. The Space Shuttle was born of that initiative, an incredible machine, but a single method of what should have been a multi-part program. Americans built the amazing shuttle and could have continued enhancing the Saturn program to provide Americans with a versatile launch capability. The Skylab program accomplished much with very little, but Nixon didn't have the forethought to fund America's space program and keep it on a track that would have dominated for decades. He couldn't see the legacy that would have left behind for him much like Kennedy's space legacy lives on today. We would be talking about how Richard Nixon was responsible for Americans on Mars. Instead, Nixon is the man who single handily took the world's preeminent space power and technology leader and set us on a course that would cause the program to drift for years. Today, as a result of Nixon's failed vision for space exploration we are in another space race. We are still ahead for now, but there is a question if we will win this race. Our marvelous shuttle will retire soon and leave a gap where America won't have a manned launch capability and the Chinese and Russians will. Why don't we have Americans on the Moon or Mars? The blame rest solely on the shoulders of Richard Nixon. His space legacy doesn't exist. His failed space exploration vision was just another failure we can add to his presidency.

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