Friday, July 17, 2009

Retreat from JFK's High Frontier

Charles Krauthammer has a reflection on the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the space program in general, today.

It is a "must read" especially for all you young'uns who weren't around or were too young to watch the actual event on July 20, 1969.

The Lunacy of Our Retreat from Space
Michael Crichton once wrote that if you told a physicist in 1899 that within a hundred years humankind would, among other wonders (nukes, commercial airlines), “travel to the moon, and then lose interest . . . the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad.” In 2000, I quoted these lines expressing Crichton’s incredulity at America’s abandonment of the moon. It is now 2009 and the moon recedes ever further.

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. We say we will return in 2020. But that promise was made by a previous president, and this president has defined himself as the antimatter to George Bush. Moreover, for all of Barack Obama’s Kennedyesque qualities, he has expressed none of Kennedy’s enthusiasm for human space exploration.

So with the Apollo moon program long gone, and with Constellation, its supposed successor, still little more than a hope, we remain in retreat from space. Astonishing.


The shuttle is now too dangerous, too fragile, and too expensive. Seven more flights and then it is retired, going — like the Spruce Goose and the Concorde — into the Museum of Things Too Beautiful and Complicated to Survive.

America’s manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the United States will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We’ll be totally grounded. We’ll have to beg a ride from the Russians or perhaps even the Chinese.


... look up from your BlackBerry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints — untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history, the moon is not just a mystery and a muse, but a nightly rebuke.

And he adds, "We came, we saw, and we retreated."

I can't improve on that.

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