Space: The Final Caliphate

You lazy, gravity-worshiping hippies may be content to sit around stoned while the Mooninites  convert to Islam and threaten the democratic peoples of interstellar space, but Charles Krauthammer will never retreat!

After countless millennia of gazing and dreaming, we finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Within 66 years, a nanosecond in human history, we’d landed on the moon. Then five more landings, ten more moonwalkers and, in the decades since, nothing.

To be more precise: almost 40 years spent in low Earth orbit studying, well, zero-G nausea and sundry cosmic mysteries. We’ve done it with the most beautiful, intricate, complicated — and ultimately, hopelessly impractical — machine ever built by man: the space shuttle. We turned this magnificent bird into a truck for hauling goods and people to a tinkertoy we call the international space station, itself created in a fit of post–Cold War internationalist absentmindedness as a place where people of differing nationality can sing “Kumbaya” while weightless.

It only took four decades to go from the Wright Flyer to the Spirit of St. Louis to the Enola Gay, and what have we done in the 40 years since Apollo 11? Goddamn it, we haven’t so much as nuked Saturn’s rings! What is wrong with you people?

America’s manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the United States will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We’ll be totally grounded. We’ll have to beg a ride from the Russians or perhaps even the Chinese.

The Russians! The Chinese! Case closed… or should I say, space closed?!?!

So what, you say? Don’t we have problems here on Earth? Oh, please. Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us. If we’d waited for them to be rectified before venturing out, we’d still be living in caves.

The unemployed, the sick, the greedy taxpayers… what a bunch of a**holes. Don’t they want to be part of something larger than themselves?

All we need is sufficient funding from the hundreds of billions being showered from Washington — “stimulus” monies that, unlike Eisenhower’s interstate highway system or Kennedy’s Apollo program, will leave behind not a trace on our country or our consciousness — to build Constellation and get us back to Earth orbit and the moon a half-century after the original landing.

Why do it? It’s not for practicality. We didn’t go to the moon to spin off cooling suits and freeze-dried fruit. Any technological return is a bonus, not a reason. We go for the wonder and glory of it. Or, to put it less grandly, for its immense possibilities. We choose to do such things, said JFK, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Yeah, after capturing bin Laden, bringing liberty and justice to the Middle East, stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and elevating America’s global image and security to unprecedented heights, all without breaking the bank, we really need something a little more challenging.