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Archive for July, 2013

International Space Station

International Space Station

Just when you think that our Congress cannot come up with any new ideas, these resourceful individuals deliver yet again.  This time, we have a proposal to establish a national park on the moon to protect the Apollo program landing sites.  To be sure, it is not clear if this is a truly visionary act or just another example of the disconnect between our Federal government and reality.  Consider H.R. 2617, otherwise known as the “Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act.  We have Members of Congress Donna Edwards (D) MD and Eddie Berenice Johnson (D) TX to thank for this interesting legislation.

Of course, if we are to establish such a park on the moon, we will need to have staff and structures present to hand out brochures and such.  And, before that, we will need to divide the moon up into defined pieces of property so that the limits of the park can be established.  There will need to be compliance officers, and RFP’s and countless other job creating positions to support such an endeavor.  There will be signage, and an advertising campaign.

Before my Republican readers start chortling about how out of touch the Democrat party is, you need to remember that their own Newt Gingrich (R) proposed making the 51st State out of the first moon colony.  You can run with this idea.  Once there are enough people present on the moon, they will need representation.  It will be too soon for the dead to vote, but it is just a matter of time.  Who knows what political issues will be raised on the moon?  Talk amongst yourselves.

Once cooler heads start consideration of such a project in the cool light of morning, there is the minor detail of the Outer Space Treaty, which pretty much puts the kibosh on developing moon real estate.  Not that a little matter of a treaty stopped the current version of our democracy.  There is even a field of space law, to address the developing issues of our time.

But you can kind of see their point.  Go ahead and put a national park on the moon and can a Stuckey’s across the road from the park be far behind?  And, if they go ahead and set up property development on the moon, it will be like the Oklahoma Land Rush in space suits.

Oklahoma Land Rush

Oklahoma Land Rush

Before you laugh this one off, consider that NASA has a hard time getting funding, the last space shuttle flight has been and gone and our Federal government can’t even declare National Peach Week without an argument.  And, once they agree on the proclamation of National Peach Week, they don’t have any money to fund it.  Laugh all you want, but it’s a sad state of affairs that we can’t control our spending so that when something truly important comes along, there’s no money to fund it.

If, on the other hand, you turn it over to private capital, they’ll find a way to do it as long as there’s the possibility of recovering their investment and making a profit.  Of course, these days, that’s such an old-fashioned idea; just go ahead and legislate the return on “investment” that shows up regardless of success or failure.  Crony capitalism at its best.

All kidding aside, it does point to an interesting state of mind that is developing amongst those who have actually been to outer space.  Consider that outer space does have a smell.  No, you can’t lift your space helmet visor and take a whiff, but when you get back into the ship and the atmosphere equalizes, there’s an odd smell of burnt metal and fried steak.

Likewise, it’s not all work on the International Space Station.  Obviously, you don’t get up there unless you can contribute, but that only consumes a certain amount of time.  There’s time to sleep also, but after all that, there’s more.  You can’t step outside for a smoke, but you can sit at the window and watch our world pass you by.  From their view from on high, they see the lights of our cities, the bursts of lighting from thunder storms, the vivid blue of our oceans and the clouds of weather and of pollution.  It’s a view that we don’t get down here, and photographs don’t really do it justice.

When the astronauts return to our mortal coil, they are forever changed by the experience.  Some have sought solace in religion, while others have sought the comfort of the precision of science.  Regardless of the outlets which they have chosen, they also have an understanding that our world is finite and our limits clearly defined.  There’s just a thin envelope of atmosphere between our gorgeous world and the vacuum of space.  And as we get drawn into the politics of distraction and envy, we forget the miracle of our world.

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