Politicians in Congress have spent the last several years lecturing Americans about how they’re going to have make sacrifices because of the federal budget deficit. They say that, because there just isn’t enough money, pregnant women and babies will have to go without proper nutrition. School kids will have to cram into fewer classrooms with fewer supplies. They say that airports will have to operate without safe air traffic control. They say that qualified students won’t be able to go to college. They even say that people who have spent their whole adult lives paying into the Social Security trust fund will have to accept that they won’t receive the benefits they’ve earned, even though Social Security spending doesn’t even contribute to the federal deficit.
Is there enough money to build a bunch of spaceships and construct a Moon colony? Yes, indeed there is, says a coalition of members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Led by Congressman Bill Posey, they introduced the RE-Asserting American Leadership In Space Act yesterday. The legislation would force NASA to plan for the construction of a new fleet of spaceships to fly a new generation of astronauts to the Moon, where they would build and inhabit a permanent human settlement.
“A Moon presence offers us the ability to develop and test technologies to cope with the realities of operating on an extraterrestrial surface,” says Posey. For what purpose, though, do people need to learn how to operate on the surface of any extraterrestrial planet?
If the United States doesn’t start to spend money on building a Moon colony now, “another country will step up and lead that effort in our absence – which would be very unfortunate,” says Frank Wolf, another supporter of the legislation. What would be so unfortunate about allowing another nation to work on the project, though, instead of placing the burden for the extravagance on the shoulders of the American people?
“Space is the world’s ultimate high ground, returning to the Moon and reinvigorating our human space flight program is a matter of national security,” says Representative Shiela Jackson Lee, another co-sponsor of the bill. If having a Moon colony is really so necessary to national security, though, why hasn’t the United States already suffered from the consequences of the lack of a Moon colony?
“The time to reassert the United States as the leader in space is now and the REAL Space Act is the next step,” says bill supporter Robert Aderholt. Why, though, is now the right time for a Moon colony? Why wouldn’t 20 years from now be just as good? For that matter, why couldn’t we wait 100 years? Outer space is nearly infinite. It isn’t as if Portugal will gain all the mineral rights to other planets if the United States waits a while.
Congressman Pete Olson says that, “The REAL Space Act clarifies NASA’s mission, something it has been lacking in recent years.” Building a Moon colony might bring clarity of mission to NASA, but sometimes, though, clarity isn’t a good thing. If NASA can’t come up with a better justification for its existence than creating a money-guzzling home for people on the Moon, just to prove that it can be done, maybe that’s a sign that, before it cuts Social Security, education, and programs provide direct benefit to Americans, Congress should bring NASA back down to Earth.