Saturday, December 06, 2014

This progressive wants to go to Mars

You can't spell "progressive" without "progress."

That's a fact. But you can be a political progressive without believing in all forms of progress.

Take space exploration, for instance. Baby Boomers recall the space race of the 1960s, the fuss we made over the original batch if astronauts and our passion for the the moon landing. Progressive hero JFK said we would land a man on the moon by the end of that decade and, by gum, we did.

Forty-five years later, I was impressed by the successful Orion launch. Many of my fellow progressives were not. Some considered it a stunt by aerospace companies to suck more money out of taxpayers. Others looked at it as NASA's showy way to continue it's storied but error-plagued ways. Many conservatives aren't fans of NASA, one of those wasteful gubment agencies. Libertarians, of course, want space to be left to free enterprise. Progressives see it as a waste of money and resources in a time when our country's infrastructure is crumbling and the middle class is disappearing. Wouldn't our money be better spent in fixing problems here on earth than it would be to go gallivanting off to Mars?

We can do both, of course. We can tend to business here on earth and still reach for the stars. It takes vision and we have to prioritize. We'd rather snipe at one another than shoot for Mars. Human failings. If we choose, space exploration can help us transcend our earthbound ways.

While all of Friday's fireworks happened at Cape Canaveral, Fla., much of Orion's hardware and software was built by Colorado companies. This from The Denver Post:
Orion will go farther into space than any NASA spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years, powered by Colorado aerospace: It was designed and built by Littleton-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, has antennae and cameras from Broomfield-based Ball Aerospace, and will hurtle into space on a Delta IV Heavy rocket, made by Centennial-based ULA. 
But these big players could not do what they do without the help of some very specialized skills supplied by businesses such as Deep Space Systems, which worked on backup flight control electronics and camera systems. 
There are Colorado companies with as few as six employees working on Orion, all specialized in one specific aspect of engineering or technology.
There were hundreds of employees from these companies observing the Orion launch this week on the Space Coast. I didn't realize Colorado's crucial role in this latest space venture. I wondered if there were any Wyoming aerospace companies in the mix. Cheyenne and Laramie have been friendly to auxiliary companies to larger ventures in energy and electronics. What about space? I did several Google searches on the topic and came up empty. Do my loyal readers know of any Wyoming-based companies involved in the Orion project? It would seem to be that Cheyenne, the northern terminus of The Front Range, would be a great location for companies involved in propulsion systems and materials and engineering, among a few I can think of.

But back to politics.

I want equality and accessibility and justice and all those other things that progressives believe in. I also want to go to Mars. Not personally, as astronauts may not get there until 2035 or 2040, which would make me much too cranky for the venture. But just to think that it could happen in my lifetime. That's exciting. That's progress.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Take me with you Mike. I remember watching the Apollo l17 aunch, the one at night, from the highway leading to the coast. It was spectacular in the December 1972 Florida sky and still cannot believe it is the last time we went to the moon.

So Peace, love, and Mars!