The Brother Who Wants to Go to Another Planet

The Brother Who Wants to Go to Another Planet

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When President Obama nominated retired Marine Corps General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), some of us sci-fi inclined brothers and sisters did a classic Can I Kick It jig at his Senate confirmation last year.  We knew that something different was on the planetary horizon when a black man was put in charge.  Lost on the minds of many (rightfully distracted by foreclosures, layoffs and brink of financial apocalypse) was third eye recognition that Bolden’s appointment could be as historic as Obama’s election.  After years of cynical resignation over NASA’s whack-filled tricks into Earth orbit, there was a vibe of game change in the air.

NASA lost its spunk sometime before the original looking-for-Earth hit Battlestar Galactica.   We space vision geeks realized NASA couldn’t or wouldn’t satisfy the fix – all the while amped on promises of orbital colonies mixed with the crack of large well-armed galactic armadas blasting invading aliens and incoming asteroids.  What’s with NASA’s Gigantor-size annual budget of nearly $18 billion if all you get are goofy Kodak moments and footage of floating liquid food?  NASA brass’ inability to connect with the American public about the need for manned space flight was defined by lack of imagination – the last place you’d imagine creativity being in short supply.  But, despite the fact NASA accounts for only 1 percent of the overall federal budget, it’s no wonder skeptics and average cats on Earth constantly question the cost of Space Shuttle flights when considering the magnitude of problems on ground.

Enter the beauty behind combined optics and substance in President Obama’s speech at the Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida last week.  To, first, put it less mildly: it’s about time a “person of color” makes calls on the future of humanity in space.  It was never lost on us lovers of celestial fiction that White Supremacy dominated untold numbers of sci-fi flicks, novels, cartoons and shows – as if, once we reached the stars, black folks didn’t exist or were Earth-locked.  That the President himself is a self-professed connoisseur of science fiction makes it rich.  Mapping out his reasoning behind the cancelation of the troubled shuttle Constellation program, Obama observes: “[T]he bottom line is, nobody is more committed to manned splace flight, to human exploration of space, than I am,” adding: “But we’ve got to do it in a smart way, and we can’t keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing.” In essence, he gets it.  Stop using NASA as a contracting cookie jar.  We should have landed on habitable planets by now rather than finding ourselves stuck on Earth sick with Ptolemaic itch.

Detractors such as original Moonwalker Neil Armstrong view the President’s shut down of future Moon missions as  “ … a long downhill slide to mediocrity.” Yet, the President actually calls for a decent increase in the NASA budget, $6 billion over 5 years, with a focus on robotic exploration, privatized space travel, a look to Mars and extending the life of the International Space Station.  And while airlines are grounded by Icelandic volcanic ash, the President announces plans to take globetrotting to a whole new level that mitigates risk and cost through private ventures.  There’s some forward thinking in that proposal, notwithstanding worries over a future where private conglomerates and their paid security arms plunder the galaxy like the cast of Avatar.  Still, while a handful of old school astronauts get to glaze nocturnal over their intimate moments with infinity and beyond, the remaining three hundred million of us can only watch static satellite shots as we wonder out loud how this helps us.

On the real, the President rolls big dice at Florida’s 25 electoral college votes.  His proposal risks nearly 30,000 jobs from the sunny “Space Coast” to metro Orlando – in a state known for its bruising battleground status and defining moment in American political history.  The $40 million job creation initiative might help with post-Constellation transition, but it falls on deaf Floridian ears in the immediate term as they’re already struggling with a slow recovery pace.  Politically, rising Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) may suffer from a hit by association.  And, then there’s the impact on space industry states like Alabama and Texas, two other crucial states, including one where Obama-supporter and Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) attempts a bid at becoming his state’s first black governor.  Like healthcare, here’s another transformative piece with nasty repercussions.

4 COMMENTS

  1. RE: “On the real, the President rolls big dice at Florida’s 25 electoral college votes.”

    By 2012, the National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

    The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,707 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  2. Good action, Toto, on the National Popular Vote bill. A rising movement, for sure, to circumvent the democratic okie doke we seem to experience every 4 years. In addition, we need a National Mandatory Civic Literacy bill – you can’t graduate high school without mastering full knowledge of the political process. That’s the real problem. Folks don’t know how democracy works, are completely clueless about the process. As a result, we get what we don’t know anything about.

    That’s a strong point regarding the President’s planet-saving motives. I believe he’s on that wavelength. We finally get the Black President and he ends up doing a replay of Morgan Freeman in “Deep Impact.” The Atlantic magazine did a great piece in its June 2008 issue titled “The Sky is Falling” about this same dilemma: NASA is stumbling around trying to recapture Moon-walk nostalgia rather than focus on important stuff like incoming, humanity-ending asteroids. Check out that piece at:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/06/the-sky-is-falling/6807/

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