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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Benefits outweigh the cost of program

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I've grown weary of America's race to space in recent years as costs spiral and the results are questionable. NASA is an expensive burden on taxpayers when you recognize that what we're paying for are some costly pictures of Mars or target practice with a remote comet. In short, the glory days of our moon missions are now long gone.

NASA this morning announced a substantial setback in the space program by grounding all future shuttle flights because of falling foam during takeoffs. The shuttle now orbiting earth was apparently unharmed by the falling foam but NASA officials are understandably concerned of the potential for harm such as the last shuttle flight.

Yet as I heard the news from NASA this morning, I began to look at the space program differently. It may just be my imagination but I think there is a tremendous psychological benefit to the space program regardless of the cost. And that psychological benefit I now believe far outweighs the cost of the program.

I think in the back of the American mind, our nation's superiority in space gives us promise of military superiority in a war. If our nation and our nation alone has the ability to accomplish what we have in space, surely we also have military might that is far beyond the scope of any other nation.

What prompted this changing attitude was the recent discussion that North Korea - our next real enemy - is rapidly developing additional nuclear capabilities. The North Koreans now say they have the ability to strike the mainland of the United States with nuclear weapons. With Taiwan's status soon to become a potential conflict, we need to heed the messages coming from the North Koreans.

Now don't misunderstand. Our talents in space and our military strength are not directly related. But somewhere deep in my mind, I believe that our military superiority must be equal to or greater than our superiority in space. And that somehow gives comfort.

I pray for the safe return of the shuttle. And I hope we solve the problems for future flights. But more importantly, I hope that our skills in space are indeed equal to our military skills. I don't want to prove that theory is correct. But when I hear that other rogue nations are developing military skills, I want to think - like our space program - that their advances are far behind ours in the protection of our people and our nation.

The next time the NASA budget comes under review, I think I may have a different attitude. I'm more than willing to pay a hefty price for the comfort of knowing our technology is the best for advancing the reach of mankind or for protecting this great nation.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen