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If President Bush wants to go to the moon, maybe we should send him
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By RICHARD AMRHINE
IN 1961, when President John F. Kennedy challenged America to land a man on the moon by the end of that decade, he had his reasons. But they were mostly political, with exploration of the "new frontier" merely a backdrop. Given the technology at his disposal, he had little cause, except for his faith in American ingenuity, to believe it actually could be done.
And for that, his idea was ridiculed.
But by the time Neil Armstrong stepped upon the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, questions of the late president's sanity had long been replaced by testimonies to his vision.
Little did Kennedy know, or would he live to know, the remarkable timing of the events he had initiated. The result was a major injection of prestige for America just when it was needed, at the close of the tumultuous 1960s.
The moon landing showed that the nation could prove itself apart from atomic bombs or battlefield prowess. Despite being mired in Vietnam, suffering the assassinations of top political and social figures, and fighting among ourselves over the American future, we could indeed put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth as the president had asked.
Now that is multitasking.
One dividend we continue to reap from reaching the moon is the belief that we can do whatever we set our minds to do. The project proves that, given the proper commitment, we will pursue a worthy goal despite accidents that claim the lives of the boldest and brightest among us.
So now we have President Bush calling on Americans to return to the moon and leap from there with human voyages to Mars.
This comes in the wake of NASA's successful landing of its rover Spirit on the Martian surface--and shortly before the landing of Spirit's twin, Opportunity, on the opposite side of the Red Planet later this month.
It's a giant leap for President Bush to make such a proposal, given his ongoing difficulty with vision in general. Is he looking back to see that Americans need the diversion of space to take their minds off the casualties of war? Or does he simply have the bad habit of jumping into complex situations without heeding the obvious implications?