NASA’s endeavors lack inspiration

On Aug. 25, U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong passed away at the age of 82.

Sandwiched between pre-Republican National Convention coverage and news of a different Armstrong’s stripped Tour de France titles, the first human to set foot on the moon subtly reminded us that even legends fall to time.

Now only eight of the 12 men to venture to the moon remain. Their exploits proved that by tempering our courage with humility and our daring with wisdom, we can avoid an Icarian fate and fly closer to the sun than any Ancient could have imagined.

Recently, Udi Manber and Peter Norvig of Google said, “When you enter a single query in the Google search box, or just speak it to your phone, you set in motion as much computing as it took to send Neil Armstrong … to the moon.”

If one meager search accesses more computing power than NASA used in 1969 to send Apollo 11 on its harrowing 240,000-mile journey to the surface of the moon, why have America’s forays into space stagnated since 1972?

In a world teeming with tablets and legion with laptops, technological constraints cannot account for the lack of progress. At some point our national priorities shifted. Our government deemed the shuttle program a loss, scuttling the ships and laying off more than 7,000 workers on Florida’s space coast.

An estimated $18 billion will fund all NASA projects in 2012, yet the Pentagon calculates involvement in Afghanistan to cost $300 million a day. This, combined with the sluggish progress of private endeavors, points to our government’s responsibility to realign its interests.

Naturally, problems on Earth eclipse our extraterrestrial concerns: The global economy teeters on the brink of crisis; instability across the Middle East takes a toll in untold casualties and public funds; many fight for social equality at home as revolutionaries fight for political equality abroad and the to-do-list continues.

Also, necessary international cooperation fosters global economic revitalization and constructive international diplomacy.

It is time our politicians give us something to believe in – something beyond the partisan stump speeches and demographic pandering. They must inspire with actions rather than words, worry about leading the nation instead of just leading the polls, and once again make men into myths.

Per astra ad fabula.


Ryden Butler is a sophomore majoring in political science, history, and economics.