Space travel proposal is necessary

To the editor

   Five hundred years ago, Christopher Columbus approached King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to secure permission to sail west.
   Spain was in a time of turmoil: it had just recovered from a Moorish invasion and fear of the Inquisition was running wild across the country. The royals could have denied Columbus’ proposal, claiming that national priorities lay elsewhere, but their adventurous decision began a momentous chain of events that revolutionized civilization in the Western Hemisphere.
   As America looks toward the heavens, there are those who insist that more important issues exist at home. Had this been said at other critical points in history, the nation that we call home may not have come into existence.
   Some say that pushing toward the Moon and Mars is too dangerous or too costly, and that it is not an appropriate course of action so soon after the tragic loss of the Columbia. However, it would be equally tragic to forget the reasons for which the heroes of the Columbia crew put their lives on the line.
   They died in the conquest of progress, and to let their dreams slip through our fingers would be an insult to their sacrifice.
   Forty years ago, President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to commit itself to manned exploration of the moon, not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
   What does an aimless human population that chooses to bicker over politics demonstrate about the competence of our species? The "race" to Mars and beyond is not a race between countries (exemplified by America’s commitment to international cooperation in the effort), but a race against a decaying sense of purpose in the human spirit.
   In a time when the economy is faltering, it may be comforting to hear that the moon landings were a direct result of the efforts of hundreds of thousands of workers.
   Additionally, over 1,300 new technologies have made the leap from the space program into homes, workplaces, and hospitals worldwide, and many others will spin off from the new space age.
   Some say that the revamped space program is a plot to bolster President Bush’s popularity. This could not be further from the truth. Why, when a president attempts to stir a sense of patriotism, create jobs, and change the course of human history must it be seen as a greedy stunt? What is wrong with a president who has the foresight to set goals and rally the nation to complete them?
   Do the American people truly thirst for a president who spends his days in an office signing laws and nullifying others, or do the people await a president who will be remembered in history for more than the way he played the petty game of politics?
   America is a country defined by taking risks. The human race is defined by taking risks. We have all heard the phrase "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," and another dark age of inactivity would be a terrible legacy for this generation to leave behind.

Timothy Szwarc
Brokaw Court