Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"The exploration of space will go ahead whether we join in it or not"

Couple notes from Chapter 9: Nixon's Decision in SP-4221 The Space Shuttle Decision:
If Nixon had wished to emulate Kennedy by supporting a new push in space, he could have endorsed the September 1969 report of the Space Task Group, with its recommended focus on a piloted mission to Mars. Nixon did no such thing. He did not even respond to this report in a timely fashion...

John Kennedy, while in the White House, had repeatedly spoken of space flight with the ring of a clarion call, and it is appropriate to note the contrast. Here is JFK, speaking at Rice University in September 1962:

The exploration of space will go ahead whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Similarly, here is Nixon in his statement of March 1970, which amounted to a most uncertain trumpet:

Having completed that long stride into the future which has been our objective for the past decade, we now must define new goals which make sense for the Seventies.... We must also realize that space expenditures must take their proper place within a rigorous system of national priorities.

Nixon's statement specifically supported his budget for FY 1971, which continued a policy of cuts in appropriations that dated to 1966. In 1970, NASA was still in retreat, and this statement underscored this march to the rear.

We started cutting NASA budgets in 1966. We hadn't even got to the moon yet, in 1966.

That was fifty years ago.

We've been trying to bring the budget into balance for fifty years. Our efforts have not worked. Everybody says our leaders are not trying hard enough. I say we're going about it the wrong way.

I didn't have the sense to take notes, but I read in the preface to Arthur C. Clarke's 3001: The Final Odyssey that when Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey (published 1968) he thought, given the progress we'd made in space, that 2001 was a reasonable date for the events of that novel.

What with our continuing Federal budget strategy, we are more distant from 2001 today than we were in 1966. Maybe it is time to try a different approach to the problem of the Federal budget.

No comments: