Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin believes the space agency has "lost its way." In an article for Air & Space magazine in 2007, Griffin set out the philosophical argument for "The Real Reason We Explore Space": "...most of us want to be, both as individuals and as societies, the first or the best in some activity ... a second reason is curiosity. ... Finally we humans have, since the earliest civilizations, built monuments. We want to leave something behind to show the next generation ... what we did with our time here. This is the impulse behind cathedrals and pyramids, art galleries and museums."
Retired shuttle astronaut Jack Lousma summed up to me the dangers inherent in the loss of American leadership in manned space flight: "In days gone by, and in order to capture support for a new space initiative, NASA would offer all kinds of rationale to sideline critics and to make the 'sale', that is, spin-off innovative new products, strengthen national security, inspire education, manage Earth's resources, capture 6-7 times return on investment, etc. ... Nobody was far-sighted enough during the Apollo buildup to 'sell' the public and to blunt criticism, by predicting a computer in every home, the Internet, GPS, cellphones, medical instrumentation and a host of other 'far-out' inventions. This will happen again, despite Obama, who has put a huge obstacle in the way, temporarily, I believe, but not until we have lost the 'best and brightest' of space flight, along with tens of thousands of experienced and dedicated space workers."
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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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