That is All: Price too high for final frontier

First Posted: 1/15/2009

“It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater …”
— Sheb Wooley

In Spielberg’s heartwarming movie, “E.T.,” our wrinkled gray friend is a visitor from the outer reaches of space, stopping briefly on our blue-green globe.
E.T. is scientist, a universal tourist, who is on a mission to gather plants from other realms.
But for adventurous E.T., his curiosity gets the better of him. He ends up stranded and alone and frightened. And the classic movie begins.
We, like “E.T.,” are curious creatures. I just hope our curiosity doesn’t cloud our good judgment in the immediate days ahead.
I truly hate to say this, but the current economic crisis is of such massive proportion, it’s time to seriously scale back the money we spend up there beyond the wild blue yonder.
The draw of space, the final frontier, is strong. Outer space teases us earthlings relentlessly.
We have spent so much time and money on seeking what’s out there, it’s a little hard to consider stopping the quest cold.
It is with these lofty thoughts crowding my already cluttered gray matter that I came into receipt of an “Open Letter to Barack Obama,” from the Paradigm Research Group. Dated Friday, it begins this way: “Dear Mr. President Elect: On October 17, 2008 PRG published an open letter to the candidates calling for them to make preparations to end the six-decade truth embargo regarding an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race. This letter reiterates that request.”
Authored by Stephen Bassett, the executive director of the Paradigm Research Group, it makes several specific demands of the nation’s new leader including:
— Demand a full briefing from military services and intelligence agencies regarding what they know and what they are doing about extraterrestrial related phenomena. “If you are told you do not have the proper clearance for this information, replace that person with someone who has read the Constitution,” the letter tells Obama.
— Press for open and comprehensive congressional hearings to take testimony from scores of government witnesses who have already come forward “with extraordinary evidence” and are prepared to testify under oath.
— Formally acknowledge the extraterrestrial presence and finally end the truth embargo after 61 years.
— Make available for open development technologies which have been secretly studied and reverse engineered for decades with unlimited “black budget” funding. “These technologies are derived from extraterrestrial vehicles and are now essential to overcome the environmental, economic and societal challenges of our time,” the letter states.
Now, I’m all for truth and openness in government, but I also believe now is not the time to waste resources trying to finally uncover the truth about Area 51. The controversy/conspiracy can wait.
And as for the space travel we’re involved in, sadly, it must also be curtailed. For the time being, we have lost the luxury of unlimited financial resources to fund new endeavors in space.
Listen: I grew up with the space program. I love the space program. Like a lot of the children of the 60s, I’ve got Buck Rogers in my blood.
As for NASA, over these many decades, I have cheered its fantastic accomplishments, and grieved its tragedies.
I see the space program not as an expensive whimsy, but a serious scientific quest for answers — answers to questions we aren’t even aware of yet.
I’ve defended the space program against critics who continually called for a halt to funding, who criticized the gobs of money we were sinking into the space program while we had problems to deal with here on the ground.
I can’t continue to make that stand, for now. These are seriously troubled times we’re living in. This financial crisis we face is no speed bump — it is a cavernous void in our road to the future.
Serious times call for serious action.
I think what may have helped me change my mind was the incident last week outside the international space station, where astronauts were working on a jammed joint that controls some of the solar wings. One of the astronauts was trying to clean up grease that had oozed out of a grease gun inside a backpack-sized tool bag, when the tote and everything in it floated away. Lost in space. The bag was one of the largest items ever lost by a spacewalking astronaut, and NASA put the price tag of the tool bag at $100,000.
One-hundred thousand dollars. I couldn’t help but wonder how many meals that money could have provided to the hungry, or how many medical procedures for those without health insurance it could have helped pay for, or how much vital medicine that money could have purchased for those in need.
For now, at least, I fear the price is too high for further exploration of the final frontier. Let’s get back on track down here on terra firma before we start building shiny new rocketships.
That is all.

— John Charles Robbins can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 122, or at [email protected].

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