Forty-two years ago yesterday, Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ascended from the surface of the moon and rendezvoused with Michael Collins in the command module Columbia for their trip home from mankind’s maiden voyage to the moon. All three men are now in their 80s, and no human being has been on the moon since each of them was 42 — and now even the space shuttle has had its last liftoff.
Americans, however, do not seem to be content with this state of demise. A new CNN poll reminded Americans that, for the foreseeable future, “all manned U.S. space flights will take place in spacecraft that are owned by other countries” and then asked whether “the end of the space shuttle program” would be “good” or “bad” for the U.S.” By a margin of almost 3 to 1 (50 to 16 percent), Americans answered that it would be “bad.”
Moreover, by a margin of slightly more than 3 to 1 (75 to 23 percent), Americans think that we “should,” rather than “should not,” “develop a replacement spacecraft that will be capable of sending U.S. astronauts into space and returning them to Earth.” And by a margin of 28 points (64 to 36 percent), Americans think that it’s at least “fairly important” for us “to be ahead of Russia and other countries in space exploration.”
It’s interesting that President Obama effectively nixed the Constellation program — the program to take us back to the moon and eventually on to Mars — which would have cost about $10 billion a year, because we allegedly couldn’t afford it. But he has felt no apparent hesitation in pushing a $787 billion “stimulus” that (even according to his own economists’ estimate) has stimulated job-growth at a rate of $278,000 per job, a health care overhaul that would cost more than $2 trillion in its real first decade (2014 to 2023), and now a $2.4 trillion debt ceiling extension — which is roughly the same amount of money, even in inflation-adjusted dollars, that we borrowed to fight World War II.
Put otherwise, Constellation would have cost about 4/10ths of 1 percent as much annually as a debt ceiling extension that’s designed to get Obama through his reelection bid next year — or $1 for every $240. Perhaps the eventual Republican nominee will see fit to set our national horizons a little higher — and restart this program that Obama has left for dead.