by Michael Maiello

It’s 2013, and the United States has failed, embarrassingly, to send one of its citizens to set foot on Earth’s closest celestial object.  In the troubled times of 1968, President John F. Kennedy launched a “Moon Race” against the Soviet Union.  The world’s two super powers spent the next three decades spending hundreds of billions of dollars on missed moon shots.  When the Soviet Union collapsed (bankrupted, some say, by the space race) the U.S. raced with Japan, and now races with China.

Enough.

If we can kill terrorists without risk by using flying death robots called drones, we can certainly send a rocket to the Moon, which is a massive target and only 1.28 light seconds away from the Earth’s surface.  The physical challenges are surmountable, even given the deficiencies of America’s public education system and the basic scientific illiteracy of its population.  It has been 45 years since JFK made his promise to America.  That we have failed has harmed the national psyche and, I would say, prolonged the effects of the Financial Crisis and the resultant Great Recession.

Were we to finally put a man (or woman) on the moon, Americans could join together and say, “If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can deal with the budget deficit.”  Also, in this era of high unemployment and scarce good-paying job prospects, it’s hard to imagine that recent college graduates from around the country would be lining up for jobs as Moon Explorers and support personnel.  Certainly, being able to do a job that would result in you being the first human being to ever step on the strange ground of Earth’s nearest natural satellite beats managing a Starbucks in Sterling, Virginia.  Are we a nation of Magellans or just the bunch of Frappuccino shakers that our global competitors think we are?

Speaking of our global competitors, now might be a good time to reform our nation’s disastrous immigration laws so that we can attract and retains the world’s best minds in pursuit of this noble, nation-building endeavor (Endeavor, by the way, is the name of the prototype of the most promising spacecraft yet developed by the National Air and Space Administration — this “moon craft” is promising and development of it is being absurdly held up by recent partisan bickering over the deficit).

As our politicians dither, this is what’s happening — the best minds from around the world come here to study physics, engineering and other sciences on student visas and then, when they graduate, they are forced to return to their home countries like China and India, where they put their educations to work in the service of our Moon Race competitors.  Your tax dollars may send Bangalore to the moon.  What would Ralph Kramden have to say about that?

Hydraulic Fracturing, also known as “Fracking,” has given the U.S. an abundant supply of natural gas, potentially freeing us from oil dependency on the Middle East and definitely reducing manufacturing costs here at home.  This gas could literally propel the U.S. into the heavens.

This adventure to the Moon might well have more than just psychic rewards for the country.  On our sister planet (I know, it’s not a planet, but allow me a moment of poetry) we could find diamonds, coal, oil, gold and more gas.  With the right planning it’s possible that the brave Americans that we send to the Moon could one day even be brought back to tell us their experiences in person, instead of via G-chat.  To that, I say, excelsior!

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