By Chris Talgo

In the early 1960s, the United States was determined to conquer the last frontier: space travel. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy stated “We choose to go to the Moon! …We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

President Kennedy’s objective of landing a man on the Moon was just the latest in a litany of ambitious undertakings in American history. From the transcontinental railroad, Panama Canal, and interstate highway system, no project has been too difficult for America to tackle.

After achieving President Kennedy’s goal in 1969, the United States remained the unquestioned leader in space exploration for decades. Yet, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, the once-vaunted American space program has deteriorated. The space shuttle program was retired in 2011. Reduced funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for several years has left the United States unable to launch human spaceflight missions. In a case of bitter irony, the United States, the victors in the “Space Race,” now rely on Russia for flights to the International Space Station (ISS).

In the wake of these events comes welcome news. The Trump administration recently announced a plan to rebuild the American space program:

 The president Monday signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

Since its founding, America has embraced exploration and ingenuity. European settlers ventured to the New World despite the hardships that awaited them. The pioneers who settled the western frontier braved the elements and many other threats. Due to the Trump administration’s refocus on space exploration, the United States will continue to push the boundaries of discovery.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” said Vice President Pence. “As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump.”

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement. Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”

Intellectual curiosity and an old-fashioned can-do spirit is part of the American ethos. The passion for discovery and advancement has been integral to the United States since its founding. American technology and scientific breakthroughs has benefited the world tremendously. The space program has led to everyday improvements in health care, transportation, recreation, and many more sectors. After years of stagnation, the United States is returning full-bore to space exploration. Not only will this renew the zeal for scientific discovery, it will bear benefits that Americans will enjoy for generations.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is the marketing coordinator at The Heartland Institute and a former U.S. history teacher.

A New Era of American Space Exploration
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