Sunday, January 20, 2008

We can put a man on the moon, but we can't go to space?

I’d like to say my story begins with me locked in a three-way steel cage death match with Mr. T and a lumberjack, but that’s not the truth.

It really starts with me zoned out for a couple of hours at my office cubicle, reading a New York Times article about the future of space flight, where I found this sentence:

“Government-financed space travel could stall in the face of America’s growing aversion to risk.”

Wait, what? We’re afraid of risk? In America? The home of the brave?

No way. We’ve all seen some pretty bad space tragedies, but America is the greatest country in the world, and you can’t be great if you don’t take risks.

We wouldn’t even have the America we know if a bunch of religious fanatics had said, “I might get seasick; I can’t get on that boat.”

We wouldn’t have electricity if Ben Franklin had said, “I might get shocked; I can’t fly this kite.”

We wouldn’t have “Hysteria” if the drummer for Def Leppard had said, “I’ve only got one arm; I can’t rock.”

So we can’t say, “Our ship might break; we can’t go to space.”

For one thing, we learn new stuff in space — NASA helped improve eyeglasses, cancer research and even NFL Sunday Ticket. And the space program does cost billions of dollars, but compared to the rest of the budget, it’s really only Stanley Nickels and Schrute Bucks.

We should keep going to space for the same reason we climbed Mount Everest, built bases on Antarctica and jumped Snake River Canyon on a motorcycle--it stretches the limits of humanity.

That’s the whole point of space travel— you blast off in a space shuttle that’s shaped like a middle finger and point it at the laws of nature.

We didn’t let the Russkies beat us to the moon, but we haven’t done anything that jaw-dropping in decades. Our buildings are no longer the tallest, our basketball teams are no longer the dreamiest, people can see our stealth bombers.

My greatest recent accomplishment was hitting 300 straight notes of “Freebird” on “Guitar Hero II.” And even that wan’t a huge deal—those 300 notes were at the beginning of the song, and the solo starts right about note 301.

Meanwhile, the Chinese might beat us to Mars.

We can’t let that happen. Granted, blind patriotism doesn’t always end well—Manifest Destiny and the Trail of Tears come to mind. But Americans — both natives and immigrants like Albert Einstein who knew this was the place to be—have done a bunch of rootin’ tootin’ stuff.

Off the top of my head, there’s the light bulb, the airplane and the American version of “The Office.”

You’re welcome.

But the toppermost of the poppermost was when we put a man on the freakin’ moon. It was a giant leap for mankind. But we could go farther.

I bet even all the astronauts who died in tragedies would have wanted it that way.

I’m gonna go pick a fight.