Falling Behind in Space?

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 26, 2001 | Go to article overview

Falling Behind in Space?


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


It's time for the Bush administration to let the American people know whether the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is going to enhance American leadership in space exploration or it is going to live on past glories.

At the moment, the White House has before it a London Times article published April 21 whose startling lead paragraph begins: "Russia has overcome all main obstacles to manned interplanetary flight and should be ready to send humans to Mars in the second decade of the 21st century, the head of a once-secret space science institute has claimed."

Anatoli Grigoriev, head of the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, publicly predicted a Russian Mars flight by 2016. The London Times correspondent, Giles Whittell, writing from Moscow quotes Mr. Grigoriev as saying that 15 years of trial and error aboard the Mir space station have given Russia unmatched experience in choosing, training, feeding and supporting the crews of space flights lasting a year or more.

It might be difficult to take seriously so spectacular a claim about a super-costly space voyage by a leading Russian space scientist when his country has been an economic basket case for more than a decade. On the other hand we should remember that Russia this month celebrated the 40th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first space flight, April 12, 1961. Other countries - India, China, Europe itself - are moving actively in space exploration.

The Bush administration should begin to move on the space front because it is one of the few issues in Congress that enjoys bipartisan support. There is no better way to begin than by studying a statement - "a roadmap to the future of NASA," he called it - by Wesley T. Huntress, one of the country's leading astrophysicists, presented April 3 to the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. He called for a commitment to "a manifest destiny for America in space." Mr. Huntress said there are four great questions mankind hopes one day to answer: (1) Where did we come from? (2) How did life on Earth originate and evolve to make the human species? …

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