I have many memories of the space program … I remember 1962, I was ten years old and in fifth grade. The teacher rolled a television into the classroom so that we could watch the launch of Friendship 7, John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, and the fifth person and third American in space. Truly exciting for a ten-year-old kid!
I remember five years later when a fire broke out in the command module of Apollo 204 during a simulated launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, killing astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee of asphyxiation.
Who could forget that magic moment on July 20th, 1969 when we heard those words from a million miles away uttered by Neil Armstrong …
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
And I remember exactly where I was standing in my kitchen when I first heard the news on January 28th, 1986 that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded just after launch and I remember crying for the rest of that day. All seven astronauts aboard were killed including Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher who had been selected as part of a national “Teacher in Space” initiative. And nearly 20 years later, once again an entire shuttle, Columbia, and its crew were gone in the blink of an eye.I grew up with the space program, even had the opportunity to visit Johnson Space Center in 1968 when my friend Nidia and I took a trip to visit her brother who lived in Houston, Texas. So, by no means do I have anything against space exploration or NASA. However …
As the United States, along with the rest of the world, is currently in the middle of a pandemic crisis, and given that this nation is, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt with more than $25 trillion in debt, I think it is unconscionable to be spending money on a space launch at this time.
Yesterday, NASA announced the date for the first manned space launch: May 27th.
There are more than 22 million people unemployed in the U.S. today. We have had nearly 40,000 deaths due to coronavirus and in many areas the disease has not slowed at all. Small businesses are struggling and the relief money from the $2.3 trillion stimulus bill has already run out. People cannot pay their rent, doctors and hospitals do not have enough personal protective equipment to keep critical care workers safe, there are not nearly enough test kits to test the number needed, schools have been cancelled for the rest of the year … the nation is in the midst of a crisis that will not be miraculously ‘fixed’ anytime soon. We cannot afford to be sending people into space.
There’s another wrinkle in this plan … for the first time, the spacecraft carrying the two astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will not be owned and operated by NASA, but by a private company — SpaceX, the commercial space company founded by Elon Musk. Though the Dragon spacecraft that will carry the astronauts has been successfully used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, it has never carried live humans. What could possibly go wrong?
I am not against technology or ‘progress’, but it seems to me that the purpose of this mission is far outweighed by other, more immediate concerns facing this nation. Frankly, we do not have money to fritter away on this … and if we do have that kind of money, then let’s use it to help the people who have been financially affected by the current crisis. People. Not corporations. People. Families. Children.
Yeah, I know I’m spitting in the wind, that NASA and our government would only laugh at me even in the unlikely event that anyone from those organizations read this post, but … I thought you all should know how your precious, hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. Of course, if it’s any consolation, the cost is only about $55 million per astronaut, or $110 million total. A mere pittance … unless you figure how many people could eat for a month on that money.