The US has Lost the Space Race
The space shuttle has been an important part of my life since childhood. My father worked for one aerospace contractor after another as I grew up in towns where the space industry was often the primary employer — Vero Beach, Florida, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Denver, Colorado, and Lompoc, California, outside Vandenburg Air Force Base.
I remember watching launches from Vero Beach at dawn, and sitting in my back yard in Lompoc one afternoon looking up in amazement as the shuttle, piggybacked on a plane, came in for a landing so low it almost felt like it was going to fall on top of me. The emotions I felt when I saw the shuttle were awe and wonder, and pride that we Americans did this. I looked forward to a future where I would be part of it.
When I was young, it was a given that America had what it took to remain first and best in space, and we made that investment happen, and it repaid the county many-fold, both in financial rewards and in scientific exploration. We are not that country anymore.
This weekend, it was announced that when the space shuttle program ends this spring, 2,800 people, half of United Space Alliance's remaining force, will have to be laid off. Who would have thought, twenty or thirty years ago, that we would just stop trying, and allow the space race to go by default to Russia, the only players left in the game? Who would have thought, when Reagan said “tear down that wall” and we realized that the cold war was ending, that we would lose it?
America has ceded her number one position in the space race to Russia, and her industrial dominance to the far East, and her technology dominance to the near east. New areas of industry are rising fast — renewable energy, nanotechnology, and other fields spring to mind, but not in America.
Is it, as some would have us believe, that the US is too regulated, that it is too expensive to develop things in the US? Not according to pharmaceutical companies, who continue to churn out drugs barely distinguishable from one another but constantly hailed as the latest and greatest cure-all. Not according to insurance companies and banks, who create more and more increasingly complex “vehicles” to strip ordinary people of their hard earned cash and concentrate it in the hands of the few. There is money to be made in America — just not by producing anything tangible. Not in the scale it used to be, anyhow.Continued on the next page