It was a long road back to space.
On July 20, 1969, an audience of 500 million people watched a man set foot on the surface of the moon and plant an American flag in the gray powder of the Sea of Tranquility.
In July 2010, NASA chief Charles Bolden, an Obama appointee, told Al Jazeera that his boss had given him three priorities… none of them involving space exploration. The foremost priority for the agency once tasked with sending a man to the moon was “to reach out to the Muslim world… to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”
As far back as 2007, Obama had called for delaying the Constellation program, which would have replaced the space shuttles, for five years in order to pay for his education program. He was the only major candidate to do so.
Once he got into office, the delay became a full-fledged cancellation.
In 2008, Obama hypocritically blasted the Bush Administration for allowing “a five-year gap after the retirement of the Space Shuttle” during which time “the United States will have to depend on foreign rockets and spacecraft to send Americans to orbit”.
Obama claimed that he wanted to retain a working space shuttle. In office however he scrapped the shuttles leaving the United States wholly dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets. Around the time that Bolden was telling America that we would not go to the moon, his skeleton of a space agency, now concerned with Muslim outreach and Global Warming, was paying the Russian space agency $424 million for six Soyuz seats.
During Obama’s first year in office, economic aid to Pakistan nearly tripled to $1.3 billion. While Obama could find no room in his budget request for the Constellation space program, a year after the Bin Laden raid, which caught Pakistan harboring America’s greatest enemy, the 2012 budget requested $3 billion in aid for Pakistan.
Bush cut economic aid to Egypt. Obama increased it. Foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority shot up from $414 million to $980 million in 2009. Due to the various funding mechanisms, including through a dedicated UN agency, that amount is not even close to the full sum.
The US stake in the IMF tripled to $165 billion. US contributions to the UN passed $6 billion; a 50 percent increase.
By 2011, total foreign aid spending had increased by 80% from $11.4 billion to $20 billion. In 2010, Neil Armstrong had sent in written testimony to a Congressional hearing stating that budget reductions for the Constellation program totaled $20 billion.
But we're back on the road now.
President Trump was signing Space Policy Directive 1 which declares that the United States will “lead the return of humans to the Moon”, a Mars expedition and “human expansion across the solar system”.
Having former Senator Schmitt at the signing was a powerful reminder of what we had aspired to. And what we had lost. Apollo 17 wasn’t just our last manned mission to the moon; it was the last time we left low-earth orbit. For forty-five years, we’ve had a space program in name only.
The last time we left our own planet, Nixon was in the White House.
Schmitt was a young man when he became the last person to step out from a spacecraft onto the moon. He’s 82 now. The rest of his crew is dead. The photo he took of the earth hangs on a thousand dorm room walls. But none of those students have had the opportunity to take another one like it. And if Obama had gotten his way, that’s how the legacy of our space program would have ended.
When Obama trashed what was left of our space program, the space shuttles were parceled off to connected museums and cities. And were stowed next to the Apollo and Gemini gear as relics. Children could peer at them through glass walls as the artifacts of another culture that actually did great things.
The Democrats are expected to fight Trump’s nomination of Rep. Bridenstine to head NASA for partisan reasons. At Bridenstine’s hearing, Senate Democrats showed no interest in discussing space policy. Instead they wanted to pound their pulpits about global warming, Muslim self-esteem and gay marriage.
"So if you're NASA administrator, and someone asks you questions about sexual morality, you're going to stay consistent with your past statements on how you view same-sex couples raising children?" Senator Cory Booker bizarrely asked.
Senator Patty Murray announced that she would vote against the former Navy pilot because of his appearances at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and other “anti-Muslim groups”. For Murray, Muslim self-esteem is apparently still central to NASA’s mission.
Now, after the disastrous (astronomic pun intended) Obama era, we're coming back. Slowly, step by step.
NASA on Friday assigned the astronauts who will ride the first commercial capsules into orbit next year and bring crew launches back to the U.S.
SpaceX and Boeing are shooting for a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early next, with the first crews flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer.
Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules — five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.
"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who made the introductions at Johnson Space Center.
U.S. astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat.
That was the work of the party that now ceaselessly howls about the Russians.
"After braving the vast unknown and discovering the new world, our forefathers did not only merely sail home," President Trump said. "They stayed, they explored, they built, they guided, and through that pioneering spirit, they imagined all of the possibilities that few dared to dream. Today, the same spirit beckons us to begin new journeys of exploration and discovery,"