American Rocket Surgery (a.k.a. Space Economics for Dummies!)

by Craig Richolds, special to The Daily Damn

Allow me to begin by saying that being asked to write for The Daily Damn is a privilege. So now I’ll ask a question: Is there room for NASA in modern American minds during our current economic troubles? Lately, this is a question I’ve given a decent amount of thought.

The classic American picture of the rocket-riding kid who still sits on the floor and stares up at his TV to watch Star Trek wants to screams yes! What could be more important than our expansion of humanity into the stars, exploring and bettering ourselves while we unravel the mysteries of the universe? But let’s be real…we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Some have a lot more mouths to feed than others, mind you. Sadly, the little kid in me has to stand up and be a man.

I doubt you could find a single person on the street that is against the space program. Even those who aren’t very patriotic take a certain pride knowing our country is the leader and default standard when it comes to exploring outside our atmosphere. Whether people feel we can afford it or not is a little less clear. Now, I could drone on and on about our current economic troubles. I could show that NASA’s budget is a fraction of any other government entity, and describe the intangible benefits of sending people and probes into space…I could because I have in other forums, and I’m pretty learned in the subject. Allegedly.

The bottom line is: yes, yes we can find the money. The money is available to power NASA, for decades into the future, too. All we really need to do is to skim just a few measly percent from other places like the military, healthcare, energy, and farm aid. But people and concerned parties/lobbying groups would totally scream at me for even suggesting this method. And therein my friends, lies the rub.

We have so many areas that we feel need full funding that in a practical sense; we’ve squeezed out nearly everything else. We must have cheap Prozac! We must have the F-35! Farmers must be paid not to grow crops! Solar energy is our top priority!

Want to know the truth? America doesn’t deserve a space program. We have become so soft and weak as a people that we lack the dedication and fortitude a space program requires! Instead of buckling down and getting to work, we are so spoiled that we would rather protest that we aren’t rich. Instead of working for less or working harder, we complain about jobs going overseas. Instead of fixing ourselves we would rather put on skinny jeans, listen to shitty music, and pour our bleeding hearts out to the internet about our daddy issues (my father is great man, by the way). You all are lucky John Wayne is dead (or frozen) because he would nut-kick you and your fucking Chuck Norris jokes (who by the way got his ass handed to him by Bruce Lee that one time) straight into orbit, no rocket needed.

Other countries like Russia, China, and India are hungry. They want to be in space. They see the benefits of putting people and material into orbit and can’t get there fast enough. We, on the other hand, are sitting with our collective thumb in our collective ass complaining about NBA lockouts and why we are falling behind.

Is there room in the American mindset or budgets for space? No. Simply because we don’t believe there is.

And that’s my giving a damn.


Happily married with a newborn daughter, Craig has two degrees in aerospace engineering, done research with national space administrations across the globe, designed lunar orbiters and landers, worked with NASA on the space shuttle, and now supports the American war fighter by maintaining Air Force fighter jets.

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