Have Americans Stopped Caring About Human Space Flight?

Have Americans Stopped Caring About Human Space Flight?

Of the many opinion pieces about NASA’s new plan for human space flight, at least two conclude that Americans no longer care about sending humans into space. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes in The End of the Space Age that “‘Avatar,’ not NASA, probably represents the future of the American relationship to distant planets.” In today’s Wall Street Journal, Craig Nelson, author of “Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon,” offers that someday “Americans will once again insist on being at the forefront of manned space travel. They do not insist on it in 2010.”

Editor’s Note: NASA wants to convince everyone that its new plan does not mean the United States is abandoning human space flight, just that from now on it will be conducted by the private sector instead of the government. The perception, though, is that it’s the 1970s all over again. Worse, in fact, since then the shuttle was in development so there was a clear path forward even if it meant a 6-year hiatus in U.S. human space flight.

The profound change that the President and NASA are proposing deserves serious consideration. As Congress begins its debate over the proposal, perhaps it should seek a mechanism to more fully involve the public. As Douthat and Nelson make clear, it’s their future.

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