The US Government Should Not Abandon The Space Station

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Derek Hunter Contributor
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Last week was the 49th anniversary of one of mankind’s greatest achievements: landing Americans on the moon.

That incredible accomplishment set the United States as the dominant force in space exploration and send every child’s mind racing about the idea of traveling to the stars.

The advances we’ve made as a nation are now at risk as the government moves to abandon some space exploration and leave it for the private sector.

Who didn’t want to be an astronaut growing up? OK, maybe your idea of what an astronaut is was based on Han Solo, or Captain Kirk or Picard depending on your age, but it’s likely the idea of going into space crossed your mind at some point as a child.

And knowing we, the United States, were the leader in space exploration added a level of awesomeness and attainability, however remote, to that dream.

As with all dreams of children, they fade and change with time in all but the most devoted, and thank God for them.

The benefits of the space program have been vast, and future discoveries will likely be immeasurable. More importantly, our dominance in space has protected us from other nations, less friendly nations, dominating space and weaponizing it.

When then President Barack Obama killed the Space Shuttle program, I thought it was a mistake. It turned us, the dominant force in space, into interplanetary hitchhikers to get to the International Space Station, of which we were a major funder. Well, we are for now.

The Trump administration announced in June that they were ending the government’s official involvement in the space station by 2025. The plan, as it stands, is to turn our participation over to the private sector.

While the private sector has also made incredible advances in getting to space – launching satellites and supplies to the station, for example – when it comes to space and competing with other nations, nations that do not have our best interests at heart, this is a mistake.

I love the private sector; in most cases, it is far superior to the government at delivering services. But when it comes to something that involves national security, the government must take point. Resupply is one thing; the whole shebang is something else.

If we’re ever going to get to Mars, or even back to the moon, the space station will play an important role.

And if the president’s idea of a “space force” branch of the military is to go anywhere, leaving the most successful space program currently running in the hands of tech billionaires and semi-hostile foreign governments seems like folly to me.

The space station will not always be the leading edge of space technology, but it is right now. And for further, deeper exploration of space and visiting other planets, that station provides important research opportunities that simply can’t be found anywhere on Earth.

Pulling the United States out of the station in 7 years makes no sense.

And I know fiscal conservatives will say the government shouldn’t do what the private sector can do. But are you willing to trust the future of the United States in space to Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos? I’m not.

Someday, likely in the not-too-distant future, we will make it to Mars. In the pursuit of that far-off planet, we may well discover how to travel fast enough to go other places. No matter what, human beings will eventually leave this planet and travel to others.

Shouldn’t the United States lead that?

If that still isn’t enough to convince you, Senator Ted Cruz agrees with me. Cruz said:

“Permanently canceling a program for political reasons costs job and wastes billions of dollars. We cannot afford to continue to pursue policies that have consequences in creating gaps in capability, that send $3 ½ billion in taxpayer money to the Russian government, or that create a leadership vacuum in low-earth orbit that provides a window of opportunity for the Chinese to capitalize on it.”

The private sector can continue down the path they currently travel, providing support and logistics, but to lead is something only the government can do. And it’s something the government should do.

Subsidizing billionaires and relying on adversaries is not one of the principles our space program was founded on.

If we don’t lead we will surely be lapped. Leave commercial space tourism to the private sector, but the serious stuff, the science of it all, should be left to the only entity created to safeguard us all.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood.” Pick up a copy here. Follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.