Other Campus: Manifest space destiny

By Daily Texan

(U-WIRE) AUSTIN, Texas – Manifest Destiny first drove people into the West, then the Western hemisphere and the rest of the world. Now, it leads to space.

Discovery, the first manned NASA space shuttle since the Columbia disaster in 2003, was scheduled to launch last Wednesday.

However, only about an hour and a half before its launch, it was put on a temporary hold when NASA engineers found a faulty engine sensor.

This brought memories of the tragic blast of Columbia to the forefront of many people’s minds. Some wonder whether we need to risk the lives of astronauts and millions of dollars on space programs because, today, space is no longer restricted to the astronauts.

Just a hundred years ago, people were fascinated by the fact that they could travel “around the world in 80 days.” Someday soon, though, we may be able to hop on a space shuttle and travel around the world in 80 minutes-that is, if you don’t want to go visit the Moon or Mars.

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More than 1,300 U.S. space technologies have contributed to U.S. industry, according to the White House. Space exploration has yielded advances in communications, weather forecasting and electronics, among many others.

Despite these benefits, NASA continues to receive less than one percent of the federal budget. Only three space shuttles remain in NASA’s fleet-two from around 1980 and the latest, Endeavor, from 1991-and they have grown old and expensive to maintain.

“Our nation’s investment in space is reasonable for a tremendously promising program of discovery and exploration that historically has resulted in concrete benefits,” President Bush said in 2004.

If we want to continue to invest in the space program to reap more sizable benefits, our nation will need to spend more money. Although the space program started competitively, it has been seeing more and more international cooperation since the end of the Cold War. For example, the International Space Station, a research station in the orbit around the Earth, has been an international project of six space agencies worldwide.

According to an announcement by President Bush, the U.S. will again send people to the moon by no later than 2020, and use this as a stepping stone for an extended human presence in space to reduce the costs of further exploration.

American Manifest Destiny faces another hurdle-perhaps a higher one than before. The United States will face difficulties jumping over this hurdle-including money, people and technology. However, with the help of other nations, it will be much easier.

In space, Manifest Destiny no longer is an American ideal, but a human one.

Staff Editorial

Daily Texan (U. Texas)