We must take leap into space journey

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

It would be so easy to dismiss President Bush’s plan to move &uot;forward into the universe&uot; and send Americans to the moon and beyond as election year pie-in-the-sky dreaming.

But that is the cynic’s way out.

Political or not, the plan is right because it is what’s next.

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Returning man to the moon will take us closer to the goal of reaching Mars, a trip that could tell us more about ourselves and our universe than we have ever known.

Our exploration of space has given us greater technological capacities and discoveries &045;&045; from health care to communications advances.

For example, NASA technology has given us kidney dialysis machines and programmable heart pacemakers. The same infrared hand-held cameras used to observe blazing plumes from the Shuttle have helped firefighters point out hot spots in brush fires.

Some will complain about the cost &045;&045; Bush is proposing an extra $12 billion in funding over the next several years &045;&045; but NASA’s budget is less than 1 percent of the overall federal budget.

Of course we need to take care of our needs at home &045;&045; domestic problems as well as our continuing war on terrorism.

But if we shelve this plan now and focus only on those needs, we leave ourselves further from the dream of greater space exploration.

Our original &uot;space race&uot; was a great boost for American pride &045;&045; but Bush has said this is not a race but a journey. We must take this leap for all humankind &045;&045; and we are the only nation now with the resources to do it.

If we don’t, what holds us back now would hold us back in the future &045;&045; and how could we harness our imagination?