WHITTINGTON: Why Don’t Democrats Want America To Return To The Moon?

REUTERS/NASA/Reid Wiseman/Handout via Reuters

Mark Whittington Contributor
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Recently, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. His testimony took place soon after Vice President Mike Pence announced that the date of the next moon landing was being brought forward to 2024, just five years from now. The committee’s chair, Democratic Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, took a decidedly dim view of the new moon program. in her opening statement.

In it, Johnson said:

And what is the justification for this crash program? To quote the vice president again, it’s because we’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s, and the stakes are even higher. Moreover, according to the vice president, the Chinese have “revealed their ambition to seize the lunar strategic high ground,” whatever that means. The simple truth is that we are not in a space race to get to the moon. We won that race a half-century ago, as this year’s commemoration of Apollo 11 makes clear. And using outdated Cold War rhetoric about an adversary seizing the lunar strategic high ground only begs the question of why if that is the vice president’s fear, the Department of Defense with its more than $700 billion budget request, doesn’t seem to share that fear and isn’t tasked with preventing it from coming to pass.

Much of Johnson’s skepticism is motivated by standard liberal denialism of foreign threats, especially those that require an outlay of funding to counter. Her statement also indicates a willful ignorance about what the roles of NASA and the Defense Department are concerning space, not to mention the proposal for establishing a Space Force that would counter the space-based military threat posed by China and others.

At the same time, Pence and the Trump administration can be faulted for not articulating more clearly why China poses a threat to the national security of the United States and world peace because of its lunar ambitions. Some have suggested that the Chinese could use cislunar space — between Earth and the moon —to attack American satellites in geosynchronous orbit, coming from an unexpected and unwatched direction.

In the future, Chinese dominance on the lunar surface — including access to its abundant resources — constitutes a direct threat to America’s status as a superpower. If China leads the way in a space-based industrial revolution fueled by lunar-mined raw materials, the world will see that country as the future and, by extension, the United States as the past. American concepts of freedom and tolerance will give way to the Chinese system of conformity, enforced by a science-fiction dystopian-style social credit system using the internet and surveillance cameras to punish and reward its citizens.

Giving NASA a deadline for getting moon boots on the lunar surface of 2024 serves several purposes. The goal will concentrate the minds of NASA and commercial space engineers that the moon program is a serious one and is not something that can be constantly delayed and ultimately canceled as the last two programs to return to the moon were.

America and her international and commercial allies returning to the moon sooner rather than later will send China a powerful message. Beijing will not be allowed to dominate the Earth from the “high ground” of the moon. In fact, to paraphrase something that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once said, when Chinese astronauts do arrive on the lunar surface, Americans and their allies will be there to greet them. China will also be told that if it proposes to share in the bounty that the moon represents, cooperation and not hostile competition will be the price of admission. The message would serve well for Chinese actions on Earth, including its imperialist moves in the South China Sea and its relentless cyberwar against the West.

One can only hope that Democrats come to realize these truths. Bridenstine, with his keen knowledge of politics, has stated that the return “forward to the moon” and hence the preservation of the United States as a great power must have bipartisan support. The survival of the United States and of human freedom may depend on elected representatives recognizing this fact.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner. 

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