Conquering space can be America’s next great effort

Jason Snead and Jason Snead

In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe, crossing the treacherous Atlantic Ocean to stumble onto the Americas. His ragtag fleet of ships revealed a new frontier, and changed the world forever. In 1969 this honor was shared by another, as Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on a heavenly body.

But the similarities between the two end there. In the decades that followed Columbus’ return from America, thousands, and eventually millions, made the crossing he had proved possible to colonize this New World. But in the decades since Armstrong’s triumphant landing on the Moon, only 11 others have followed in his footsteps.

In the 21st century we face a challenge not so different from our European predecessors: Are we, as a nation, prepared for an undertaking of a magnitude dwarfing all other endeavors in human history? Are the risks worth the gains? If we can answer these questions in the affirmative, then a third question is presented: How do we effectively move into, explore, colonize, and populate our own new world?

The modern era seems increasingly to be one of complacency. Our nation’s economy is the largest, our unemployment is low and opportunities abound. But few recall how we became so wealthy in the first place. Always we, as a people, have looked across the horizon to the next great frontier, and set for ourselves monumental tasks that fueled the imaginations of children and drove innovative spirits.

It was these undertakings that propelled America forward and allowed our nation to become what it is today, and so it would seem if we seek to keep our nation strong, healthy, safe and prosperous we must once again set for ourselves the lofty goals we deserve.

The conquest of space will no doubt entail risk, and it is this risk too many have used as evidence for why we should place a moratorium on space travel. Imagine if Columbus had returned from America, telling the tale of the dangers he faced, and none made the journey because it was not completely safe.

What we must ask ourselves, then, is not if this enterprise is safe, but rather if its benefits outweigh its risks. Space is a vast resource pool, rich in materials we need in ever-greater abundance. The moon alone contains the same ores and deposits as Earth, and if it could be mined it would be a tremendous boon to a planet slowly becoming unable to support its population.

Resources aside, the movement into space would engender countless jobs. Mastering space travel would require building an entire infrastructure from the bottom up, and the raw materials, the new technologies and the assembly of modern craft needed for the task would present America with an opportunity to return its manufacturing base to the homeland. The economy would soar to new heights, and would guarantee the nation’s economic prosperity for generations. Seeing the opportunity to take leading roles in this movement, the nation’s youth would be inspired to pursue careers in mathematics, engineering and the sciences, all fields that are absolutely necessary to maintaining a modern economy.

To accomplish these things we will need a whole new outlook on space travel. We must cast aside the view of space as an opportunity only for a privileged few and aim to transform it into a hub of commerce.

This will require that we construct a true infrastructure there, just as our colonial ancestors did when they first arrived in the New World. Support bases, new rockets and supply ships, and ultimately spacecraft able to make the journey from the Earth to the Moon, and beyond, are all part of this vision of America’s future.

In striving to do these things we can reshape the undeveloped field of space travel much in the same way we did the airplane decades ago. Where once a plane was considered a flying death trap it has sense morphed in the dominant, and safest, long-distance form of traffic on the planet. People should one day board a craft, headed to business meetings on the Moon, with the same nonchalance as any family heading to Hawaii.

Our destiny has time and again been affected by a small cadre of dreamers who always seek to push us over the next hill, into the next frontier. Each generation of Americans has thus been given their great insurmountable obstacle, and each generation has subsequently met and exceeded the hopes and expectations placed upon them.

Let ours be no different for, as John F. Kennedy once said, “space is there” and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.” We stand on the cusp of a great new age, and we must boldly rise to the challenge and venture forward.