I remember well the day American astronauts first walked on the moon. It was July 21st, 1969 ~ my youngest daughter was three months old, and I had a serious ear infection. We had dinner with some friends, and watched as Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the lunar surface and said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. We were filled with such pride and wonder. We thought the future was limitless, that there was nothing we couldn’t achieve.
Less than a month later, In August, a music festival took place in a field in Woodstock, New York. The contrast between these two events couldn’t have been more stark: one was a triumph of science, technology, discipline, and hard work, the other, an abandonment of discipline, boundaries, and cultural norms. On one hand, we had “counter-culture” hippies, with long straight hair, no make-up, sandals and bell-bottom jeans, who started communes, grew organic vegetables, professed “free love”, “peace, not war” and “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. On the other hand, mainstream culture celebrated hair falls, lots of make-up, Jean Shrimpton-style false eyelashes, mini-skirts, go-go boots, and Studio 54.
We, in the mainstream, thought the hippies were harmless, and would fade into obscurity in a haze of marijuana smoke. It never occurred to us that they would grow up to become politicians, college professors, journalists, and filmmakers, who all want to tell us what to eat, what to drive, where to live, and how to think. Like alien pod people, they transformed from “do your own thing” to “do what I say, or ELSE”.
It took ten years to make JFK’s announcement that we would put men on the moon a reality. Back then, we believed that by 2014 we would certainly have reached Mars, or something even more ambitious, but here it is, 45 years later, and not only haven’t we gone anywhere in space, we no longer have a space program! We beat Russia into space back in the 60s, and now we have to ask Russia if we can hitch a ride on their space shuttles, and NASA’s “new mission” is “Muslim outreach”.
Instead of going “where no man has gone before”, we are regressing. There has been very little innovation. Many of the inventions and discoveries we depend on today came out of the space program. In the medical field, there are pacemakers, ear thermometers, invisible braces, scratch-resistant lenses, and pumps for regulating medications. For our homes, there are smoke detectors, microwave ovens, freeze-dried food, memory foam, water filters, cordless tools, and, of course, Tang. We use satellite radio, fire-resistant materials, lasers, and so many more byproducts of the space program. Our economy and way of life would be quite different, if not for the space program. But, except for computer technology, which is not regulated (yet), regulations, even more so than taxes, have slowed innovation to a crawl. People wonder why, if we can “send a man to the moon”, we can’t cure cancer or Alzheimer’s. A new computer program can be developed for less than $100,000, but one new medication costs more than $1 billion to bring to market. On top of that cost, in today’s litigious society, if a person has an adverse reaction to a new drug (and with every drug, there is a percentage of the population that will have an adverse reaction), they immediately sue the company. And we wonder why drugs are so expensive! While the left regulates businesses out of business, they demonize them as being “greedy”.
Instead of removing restrictions on exploration, innovation, invention, and new business, our government is “investing” in welfare, food stamps, and social programs that make people dependent. This administration has increased our debt by $7 trillion, but what do we have to show for it? They keep talking about investing in infrastructure, but none of that $7 trillion has gone to infrastructure. We have not built more dams, retrofit any bridges, or built new nuclear plants. We have not sent any astronauts to the moon. What do we have to show for spending more money than all the previous presidents in American history??
We need a new direction. We need to feel pride, and believe that anything is possible. We need to reach for the stars, again.