Whenever the subject of space exploration comes up, somebody always drags up the old argument about fixing our problems here on Earth. "How can we spend money in space when there are people starving here on Earth?" the argument goes.
While I sympathize with the view of those who would like to pursue peace before turning toward space exploration (which is, admittedly, quite expensive), I'd like to remind you of what was the most peaceful moment in Earth's history - July 20, 1969. On that day, for a few hours, most of the world laid down it's guns, postponed the assaults, terrorist bombings, and robberies they had planned, quit fighting among themselves for a bit and found a radio or TV to settle in front of while. Why? Because for the first time in history, Neil Armstrong, an American-built human being, was fixing to set foot on the moon. While Neil was getting his boots dirty, people all over the world watched in breathless amazement. For a powerful moment, the people of the world felt like human beings. The crime rate plummeted that night.There were no civil rights riots. We forgot that just two days before a US senator and the brother of the very man whose words were responsible for setting us on the path to the moon had run off a bridge while driving drunk and abandoned a young woman to drown. He disappeared from the news. We didn't care about scandal. We were looking up at the sky. There was a real man on the moon that night and it blew us all away.
Yes it was costly - 155 billion if you figure it in today's inflated dollars. But, I mean, come on! We spent almost that much on the Chrysler/GM bailout and 20 billion more than that to bail out AIG. And don't even get me started on how much we're on the hook for because the folks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac screwed up royally.
The Apollo program stretched our technology to its limits, creating a host of new industries along the way (and incidentally millions of new jobs making and selling everything from smoke detectors, home computers, sofwatre and WD-40 to superglue and non-asbestos fire retardant materials - things we didn't even know we needed till we went to the moon.) President Kennedy said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard". The man was danged near a conservative the way he talked. The space program that grew out of that effort to put a man on the moon was, I believe, one of the most effective jobs programs in history.
Space exploration has helped unite the planet in ways that are incredible. Remember some of the amazingly peaceful things we did with the space program. At the height of the cold war, while our two governments were busy posturing over missile deployments and brush-fire wars, the last Apollo mission hooked up in orbit with a Soyuz capsule. After the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union broke up we sent up a shuttle to dock with the Russian MIR space station. We carried the lion's share of the heavy lifting in building the "International" space station, extending the life of our space shuttle fleet, risking astronaut lives to finish the project. While we're trying to decide what to do now that we're grounding our shuttles and canceling the Orion program in favor of corporate and social welfare programs, we're buying rides into orbit on the old, reliable Soviet-designed Soyuz's still being operated by the Russians. Space exploration seems to have generated, not only a lot of cool technology (like the laptop I'm writing this on), but also a lot of peaceful pursuits between nations. Playing nicely together in space is certainly a better way to use our rocket engines and guidance systems than the alternative.
Government needs to lead the way or get out of the way! One or the other. It's time Americans did what Americans do best. I think the motto for our return to the space race should be the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy -- "Get 'er done!"
Who knows. If we went to Mars, maybe peace would break out again. If you're looking up at the stars, it's kinda hard to shoot at your neighbor.
For those Christians who worry that supporting space exploration might be a denial of our faith or intruding on sinless worlds or denying that Jesus is coming, I found an interesting reference in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 where it says, "He will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven." I suspect if a few of us are in low Earth orbit or on a moon base, that the angels will still be able to find us. And really, when it comes down to it, doesn't man tend to do better when he's looking up to the heavens. Jesus said that we'd always have the poor with us. We can still help the poor, but maybe, if we turn our eyes toward the place from where He told us he would return, it will remind us what a wonderful universe he has prepared for us to inhabit.
We stand on the threshold of the stars. When He comes he will make us over anew, fit to be citizens of the whole universe. Heaven will be wide open for us to explore. I don't think Jesus will mind if we meet him partway, do you?
Just my opinion....
Just my opinion....