SUPREMACY OF THE HEAVENS
Red dust trailed in a billowy wake behind the tires of the old pickup as it pulled into our driveway. I flipped open the curtain of the bedroom window when I heard the crunch of gravel and yelled, “Uncle Gilbert’s here!” I raced with my brother out of the house, down the steps of the concrete slab of our back porch and up to Uncle Gilbert as he shut the door of his truck. The truck was really his second horse. It had wood rails around the bed for hauling cattle, or gear, or whatever an old cowboy might need to haul. He placed a straw cowboy hat on his head, popped the pearl button on his western shirt and pulled out a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. We loved Uncle Gilbert, and his sure gift of a slice of gum imprinted our appreciation for his company even more deeply.
July 20, 1969
Uncle Gilbert had traveled from Green River to Moab because we had a television set. We had anticipated the moon landing since Apollo 11 blasted off 4 days earlier. I remember the breathless excitement and bursting wonder I felt as we gathered in our living room around a small, rabbit-ear antennae, black-and-white TV. The adults and children in the room, about 12 of us, spoke in whispers as we watched the grainy pictures that were broadcast miraculously from the surface of the moon. “Will it land?” “Do you think they’ll crash?” “I wonder if they will sink into the surface?” But for most of the televised moon landing, we were silent, our eyes big with fascination and unease. The lunar module landed with a shudder. Hushed words of relief. We huddled around the TV for what seemed like forever. Then the ghostly image of Neil Armstrong emerged from the module. “I’m going to step off the LEM..That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” We erupted in whoops and cheers. Our anticipation was sated when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin placed the American flag into the dusty surface of the moon. Relief and pride filled our hearts that day. And I remember asking my parents, “When will the next one land on the moon?” In my young mind, in the midst of the human triumph over space and gravity, I believed that the space age would be a boundless and permanent fixture of the American Way.
Uncle Gilbert didn’t travel to Moab to watch the dramatic failures of Apollo 13. And as time wore on, and the VietNam war ground the nation into despair, trips to the Moon were crowded out by social upheaval. ‘We have achieved supremacy over the Heavens,’ or so we thought. ‘We will catch up with the space program at some settled, future time. ‘ Still I remember the subsequent moon landings because my school teachers made special efforts to set up television sets where we could witness the ongoing wonders of NASA’s Apollo program. The space program, indeed the very acronym ‘NASA’, had great symbolic power which reassured, during times of uncertainty and conflict, that the United States still held a predominant position as a superpower on the Earth, and as a force above its surly bonds.
I was in college when the Space Shuttle Columbia made it’s first trip. We watched a her landing on a television that had been set up in the greenroom of the theater building on my campus. I marveled at how a spacecraft of such bulk and girth could land on Terra Firma, petal soft, following a trip into space. I was waiting breakfast tables at the Market Street Grill in Salt Lake City when the Shuttle Challenger broke apart seconds after takeoff. The usually frenetic staff congealed into subdued little groups to share our terror and disbelief. Some wept, and many worried that this horror would end the space program forever.
The USSR continued to innovate as we watched the failures, and occasional successes, of the Soyuz Space program. Ronald Reagan made us wonder at the possibilities of taking national defense into space with SDI. The Space Shuttle program pushed on. The Voyager space probe, the Mars lunar rover, the Hubble Telescope.
The mysteries of space opened up to humanity as the pages of a vast and unfathomable tome. The extremity of creation was made available to mankind because of the leap of faith taken by scientists, engineers, astronauts, and willing leaders, into the Heavens. Space exploration is in form and token the ultimate freedom: The escape of humankind from the bondage of Earth. The Supremacy of the Heavens for Americans, is more than an assertion of political and intellectual muscle. It is more than a parade of military ingenuity and strategic preeminence. It is more than a showcase of technological and engineering genius and perfection. The Space Program is the forward-thinking typification of National greatness. Any great endeavor, whether personally or nationally, is done as a partnership with God. One of the reasons Americans, and the world, so love the Space Program is because it combines America’s greatness; invention, acumen, and exertion, with her goodness; faith, courage, and resolve.
Barak Obama announced early in 2010 that he would be making drastic cuts in NASA’s budget. These cuts would terminate funding for the Constellation program which was slated to return astronauts to the moon. Space shuttle missions would end, and funds for the Ares I and Ares V rockets, and the Orion Crew Capsule would be blocked. NASA has traditionally had a big budget, but in real numbers it amounts to a little over $9 billion per year since 1958. When you realize that the Federal Government spent almost $200 billion on interest alone in 2010, the NASA budget is a trifle.
Barak Obama does little that is rational, and it seems irrational that he would go after NASA with its stellar role as a leader in space age innovation and exploration. But I believe that it makes perfect sense when you remember that Obama has a visceral contempt for all the things that NASA represents: American technological superiority, space-based anti ballistic missile defense capabilities, and the historical role of the United States as a Space Age pioneer.
Obama’s antipathy for American exceptionalism is evident in the way he slices and dices relatively small budget items like NASA. Yet he spends federal dollars to support Planned Parenthood, wasteful entitlement programs, and in lawsuits against states such as Arizona, to enforce his unpopular agenda. One must come to the conclusion that Barak Obama hates the greatness of America yet embraces every cultural and economic condition that decreases our freedom and ability to defend ourselves against the destroyers within and without.
The president who bows to tyrants and monarch has deliberately diminished the spirit and stature of the United States of America. Today we mourn the end of the American Space Shuttle program. We mourn the fascination and awe that has been quenched as our potential to visit the unknown realms of space becomes dubious. Wonderment and striving for the Heavens are qualities that have defined us for decades. To always want to go a little further and peel back the mysteries of nature a little more deeply are the yearnings of a free people. But the entire space program has been slashed and slowed and its future is in doubt. We have a president who has promised the moon to groups and individuals who would use America’s resources and destroy her culture and people. We need to replace Obama with a president who will promise us the moon, and mean it.
By Marjorie Haun 7/10/11