"Yes, there were days that NASA dreamed big. And when NASA dreams big, our youth also dream big. Today, NASA is more concerned with global warming and PC this or that, than true science. Oh well - what could have been."
Back in the early 70's, as the Apollo Program was winding down, NASA was replete with dreamers and doers. This was the dream team which answered President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960's. And against all odds - they did it. And did it again, and again, and over again, until the waning days of 1972, when Apollo 17 blasted off. That was the final time we set foot on the Moon.
A while back, one of the scientists who was involved with the Moon landings, was asked on a science program what the biggest bang for the buck was. In other words, was it worth going to the Moon just to bring back a few rocks? The scientist gave a polite grin and answered it this way, (if I may paraphrase a bit). "Going to the Moon allowed us to think like scientists. It allowed us to believe that just about anything was possible, in space or back on Earth. It started a well spring of young people with a renewed interest in the sciences." Bingo. And with that well spring, this nation was off and running, once again.
What some don't know, or maybe have forgotten, years after the Apollo Program ended, we had the chance for NASA greatness, once again. In 1989, twenty years after the first Lunar landing, and over a year before the first Gulf War, President Bush (41) announced the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). It was a whopper of a program, and made the Apollo Moon landings look puny in comparison.
The SEI was set out to send people to Mars. And not just decades away, but near term. It involved a do over on most of the existing space station. Bigger, better, and able to do some space construction on rocket parts. It also involved a Moon base to house astronauts while the final assembly was occurring on the massive Mars explorer. Basically, the SEI told NASA to reach for the stars in its dreaming and planning. So they did. And came up with a program costing $450B.
Needless to say, when this program, along with the price tag, was submitted to Congress, it went absolutely nowhere. DOA. It would have been the most expensive program since World War II. But what if? What if this nation took the challenge and did it anyhow, price tag be damned?
In 2019, we would have numerous bases on the Moon. Some for research, some for low gravity manufacturing, some for mining. We might even have a lift off area for launching from a low gravity location. Mars would be yesterday's news. We would also have a colony on Mars. Trips to the Moon, Mars and the Asteroid Belt would be so routine, they would barely make the paper.
Some might yell out, "Bird! You idiot! We can't spend that kind of money when we have so many needs here on Earth!" You mean, like spending almost $1T on Obama's stimulus program and coming up with spit? I would love to see what other technologies we would have today if we had taken that bold step in 1989.
Yes, there were days that NASA dreamed big. And when NASA dreams big, our youth also dream big. Today, NASA is more concerned with global warming and PC this or that, than true science. Oh well - what could have been.