NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine noted in a recent interview that Americans would already be on Mars if not for what he called “political risk.” He decorously did not mention that the political risk has been generated by liberal Democrats.
“In an interview on CBS News’ ‘Face The Nation,’ Bridenstine said President Donald Trump is on board “100%” with returning to the moon in five years, but is focused on /putting an American flag on Mars.’
“There are two risks, there’s the technical risk and then there’s a political risk,’ he said of the moon and Mars shots. ‘We would be on moon right now if it weren’t for the political risk — we’d be on Mars quite frankly by now had it not been for the political risk.’”
“He said by political risk, ‘I’m talking about funding.’”
Foremost in Bridenstine’s mind has to be some of the skepticism toward Project Artemis, NASA’s program to land American astronauts on the moon, establish a base there, and then go to Mars by House Democrats. However, opposition to human space exploration has a long, sad history in the Democratic Party.
As this is being written, the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Even as Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, a government panel called the Space Task Group was mulling over what NASA should do next. That fall, the panel offered a series of recommendations, one of which would have had Americans on Mars by the 1980s.
Liberal senators such as William Proxmire, Walter Mondale, and Teddy Kennedy exploded in rage. Such space adventures, they maintained, would come at the expense of Americans in poverty. Unwilling and perhaps unable to surmount such opposition, President Nixon instead chose one of the recommendations, a reusable space shuttle. Even that small program was barely approved in 1972.
Fast forward to 1989. On the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11, President George H W Bush revived a return to the moon and on to Mars proposal called the Space Exploration Initiative. He called the new initiative a “journey into tomorrow.”
Liberal Democrats in Congress were not impressed. Then-Sen Al Gore snarked that President Bush needed to embark on a “journey to reality.” Congressional appropriators not only refused to fund the Space Exploration Initiative but excised all existing funding for human space exploration. President Bill Clinton unceremoniously canceled SEI even as a concept.
President George W Bush had better luck with his version of a space exploration program. However, President Barack Obama duly canceled the program, dripping with sarcasm when he noted, “We’ve already been to the moon.” It should be noted that Obama once sneered at the concept of American exceptionalism. Nothing quite speaks to that concept as Americans exploring other worlds.
President Trump, a man whose presidency has been built around the idea of making America great again, has mounted a third attempt to get Americans beyond low Earth orbit. He has even set a year certain, 2024, for the first woman and the next man to leave footprints on the lunar surface. The program, called Project Artemis after the twin sister of Apollo, got warm support for its first year. However, the Democrats have won control over the House and some are as deeply skeptical of space exploration as members of that party have been for the past 50 years.
Besides the usual excuses for not wanting to explore space, some liberal Democrats are motivated by their deep, abiding hatred of President Trump. If Trump is for it, whether it be space exploration, border security, or regular baths, Democrats must be against it.
The decision to advance the year of the next moon landing from 2028 to 2024 is one attempt to retire that “political risk.” The theory is that if Artemis is advanced enough to send people to the moon, it would be very hard for the next president to cancel it even if he or she is a Democrat.
If should be noted that the “political risk” may be in not pursuing Trump’s program. A recent Gallup Poll suggests that 53 percent of Americans, and even larger numbers of young people, favor sending astronauts to Mars. President Trump and Administrator Bridenstine should note the poll results going forward. Certainly, the House Democrats should do likewise.