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Essay by - Robert Bunn - Warrior Contributor
Former senior law enforcement attorney in Florida and commentator on national issues,
America is Committed Again to Space –50 Years after First Moon Landing
Inflection points in our nation’s history are often missed, as we get swept into the vortex. Minds could only imagine, in 1961, what landing on the moon might be like – or mean. President John F. Kennedy put America on that trajectory. It was a daring gamble, and it paid off. Due to that gamble, the Cold War ended on our terms. Today, other gambles are afoot in space.
Fifty years ago this July, three astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins – headed for the moon. They launched atop a 36-story Saturn 5 rocket, taller than the Statute of Liberty. American technology was unrivaled – six million pounds climbed safely into space.
Eventually, Neil and Buzz walked on the moon – grainy photos and crackling voices relayed back by movie camera, S-Band radar and satellites to screens around the world. People were overcome by shock, joy and wonder. Such is the power of daring and doing, dreaming and launching, imagining and then acting. And no place better to dream big – than space.
Today, as we look back – we must also look forward. Buzz Aldrin recently wrote in the Washington Post, that “Americans are good at writing fantasy, and incomparable at making the fantastic a reality,” as we did with “Mercury, Gemini, Apollo — and in thousands of other ways.” He then argued for bigger thinking, from launch to making Mars a human destination.
The simple fact is that Buzz Aldrin – and those who think like him – are absolutely right. President Trump and Vice President Pence seem to get it. They are once again pushing the envelope on space, declaring America’s intention to secure the domain, walk again on the moon, encouraging all-American companies to take-off, pressing “Buy America” in this sector.
Their commitment to space is refreshing, encouraging to American space-related businesses, hearting for pioneers of all sorts, and should lift the American people. In short, America seems to be back in the space game, and with new intent to stay there.
What one notices – almost immediately – is how this Administration is creating synergy in space. They have put us on a new trajectory. They are smoothing the way for public-private partnerships, rewarding launch innovation by smaller companies, searching ways to lower the cost of getting to orbit, creating responsive launch options, buttressing national security by emphasizing US soil launches and shrinking satellite size.
On the high end, they are putting bigger budgets behind manned missions to moon and Mars, reorienting our nation to think bigger and reach deeper into space. In national security space and civilian space, they are taking new action.
Within the past few months, the Trump Administration has announced $14 billion for 2020 space operations, $13 billion for missile defense and countering hypersonic threats, made an eye-popping commitment to “return humans to the surface of the moon by 2024” with a “dramatic acceleration of the agency’s human space exploration plans,” and made selections for the “DARPA launch challenge,” which aims to “fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible and responsive launch of small payloads.”
Taken together, these developments are not small. They represent an inflection point. They seem to signal a new commitment, fresh national resolve to take America back into space, emphasizing both national security and civilian exploration.
So, as you ponder the 50th Anniversary of America’s first moon landing, marveling once again at what we Americans can do when we try, brace yourself to enter a new vortex. From flexible, efficient access to low-earth orbit to magnificent manned missions to the moon and Mars, the future is headed our way – and fast. Inflection points are like that, exciting and inspirational, often missed in the moment. Once again, big gambles are afoot in space.
Robert Bunn, former senior law enforcement attorney in Florida and commentator on national issues, has special interests in rocketry, intelligence, international affairs and national security. He holds multiple degrees from Harvard University and is author of two books, one of which is The Panama Canal Treaty: Its Illegality and Consequential Impacts.