Moon, Mars missions are campaign pitches
We understand the importance of a renewed national commitment to the exploration of space, along with the accompanying science spin-offs that would promise.
The U.S. manned space program, without a clear purpose for three decades, now struggles, a year after the loss of seven astronauts aboard the Columbia, with aging and outdated space shuttles, a leaky international space station and stale ideas.
But President Bush's planned announcement of a manned mission to Mars and a permanent base on the moon bears all the unpleasant earmarks of a candidate groping for reasons why voters should give him a second term. It smacks of a campaign promise that will find the back burner by December.
A month ago, the White House reportedly was anxiously searching for big ideas the "vision thing," as Bush's father used to call it causes that would line Americans up behind a national purpose that only a Bush second term could provide.
This big idea, however a moon landing that excited our imagination 40 years ago is a dubious, hugely expensive rerun at a time of war and budget deficits.
Big ideas? Here are a few suggestions:
- Why not capture Osama bin Laden and build a modern democracy in Afghanistan, as Bush promised two years ago?
- Why not figure out how to make our ports safe from terrorist-smuggled weapons of mass destruction?
- Why not recognize the peril of a tax-cut-induced soaring national debt, and make a commitment to balance the budget?
- Why not make sure every child who qualifies for Head Start, instead of only 60 percent, gets to attend? If not universal health insurance, then why not at least coverage for every American 4-year-old?
The space program clearly needs new life and a new sense of purpose, but Americans won't line up behind the same old, same old wrapped up in new rhetoric.