What others say: Americans still reaching for the stars?

  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 4:19pm
  • Opinion

Americans are spoiled when it comes to space travel. We beat the Soviet Union (now Russia) to the moon. We’ve sent unmanned crafts to Mars. We’ve sent craft toward Jupiter. Our satellites roam the nightly skies.

So when there’s an accident involving a rocket, such as the one involving an unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station that exploded just above the launching pad, or the “anomaly” experienced by the Virgin Galactic test vehicle SpaceShipTwo that crashed in the Mojave Desert Friday, the question comes up as to how such a thing can happen.

Virgin Atlantic chief Richard Branson expressed shock at the crash but vowed to push on.

“Space is hard — but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together,” Branson said.

Admirable, to be sure, but is it really achievable in the long run? When tragedy struck the American space program (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) with the fire aboard the Apollo spacecraft that killed three astronauts, NASA and the space program rebounded.

When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on liftoff or when the Shuttle Columbia blew up upon return, the space program rebounded.

But will those who can afford the $250,000 ticket for three exhilarating minutes want to take the chance? Time will tell.

The accident left one pilot dead, the other seriously wounded. But it leaves an even greater void. NASA has already seen its budget diminish, and the shuttle program has been mothballed. The public hasn’t demonstrated a strong desire to see the billions of dollars in taxpayer money sent into outer space.

It all begs a larger question. Is there truly a place for space travel for private companies taking civilians up into the outer reaches of space?

Given the exploratory nature of humans, it’s a question that at some point, those companies and the American people may not know how to answer.

— The Daily Star, Hammond, Louisiana,

Nov. 4

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