Friday, August 30, 2013

A Blast from the Past: Essays from the former blog. . . .

On InstaPundit tonight, saw a bit about how NASA has lost its' way, and is adrift. . .

Oddly enough, one of the responders there noted without a frontier, that America loses a major reason for its' existence.  Something I concluded YEARS ago.   So, bringing back a blast from the past, an entry from a previous blog, dated Nov 13, 2009:

Essay: LCROSS, Water on the Moon, and Conservative Politics

This afternoon, driving home from a job interview, I switched on a talk radio station here in DC, as they have great traffic and weather coverage. It was Hannity's show, but he was out, and some generic guest host was on. This guy was wondering what the big deal was, about finding water on the Moon with the LCROSS satellite and the so-called "bombing of the moon". He was laughing it up, and when an engineer called in from Huntingdon Beach, California to explain, the chimp on the radio was asking about who would stock the Costco on the Moon with Triscuits.

And it got me thinking. Better yet, it lead me to what I think is some basic insight as to exactly what's wrong with America today, and perhaps even how to fix it.

In short form, it's this: America NEEDS a Frontier. And when we stopped having one, things started to go wrong.

Think about it: from the founding of the Colonies, until, really, sometime in the early 20th Century, we had the West. The Wide Open Spaces, where a man could farm, or mine, or build to his heart's content. We got interrupted by the World War, both parts 1 and 2, and by the 1950s, the only genuine frontier we had left, was Alaska.

For a while, it looked like we were going to open up a whole NEW frontier in the 1960s and early 70s: Space. But then, somehow, we lost the nerve. The Apollo Project got shortened. The Shuttle/Station got dropped to just the Shuttle, and it was no longer 100% re-usable. Heck, the original idea for the External Tank was to take it into orbit and park it, so it could later be used as part of a Space Station, and William Proxmire killed even that.

So, by the end of the 1970s, The High Frontier was only in the eyes of a relatively small handful of dreamers. I know, I was one of them. I was even a national-level officer of a college spinoff of the L-5 Society, that I forgot the name of. But nobody cared anymore. I suggested Lagrange Habitats and Power Satellites, and people looked at me like I was from Mars.

In the meantime, I was coming of age as a young Conservative. And we were excited by a strong voice, from the West. It was 1980, and Ronald Reagan was running for President, with a muscular, optimistic, and positive conservatism that is sorely missing today. We were helping to make Morning in America again. . . . we won the election, Conservatism was marching forward, and the Shuttle was climbing into the skies. . .

Then we lost the Challenger, and what little spark was left in the Space Program, was smothered in the effort to make it zero-risk in the future. The Reagan Administration drew to a close, and George Bush was just not the man, and not the conservative, that Ronald Reagan was. Bush segued into Clinton, and Government grew, and Space shrank as a priority. Political correctness grew, and suddenly, being Conservative was automatically bad in the "mainstream" view. The Frontier no longer really exists outside of the Discovery Channel, and THAT is primarily entertainment.

So what am I getting at here ? My insight for today is this: The American Experiment, the Conservative Movement, and the Frontier are intertwined: all three depend on the the other two to grow and thrive. When one goes away, the others falter.

Consider where the truly great conservative leaders of the last 50 years have come from: Barry Goldwater came from Arizona, in the days when it was still partially wild, and not the retirement mecca it is today. Ronald Reagan came into his prime in California, when it was still growing and a land of opportunity, not the groaning welfare state it has become. And the one potentially great conservative leader-to-be we have today, Sarah Palin, coincidentally comes from the single frontier we have left, the wilds of Alaska. I'm convinced this is for a reason.

Think about it: Living on the frontier, REQUIRES self-reliance, industry, personal discipline, and skill. And the willing help of others who ALSO want to better their situation. That, pretty much, is practical Conservatism in its' most basic form: it literally is the mother's milk of the frontier. Success by some on the frontier helps persuade the fence-sitters in turn to try their hand at the Frontier. The dynamism of the movement, combined with the new resources discovered and employed by those who settle the Frontier, provide much of the growth in the economy. This even shows up, to a lesser degree, both in the regular economy today, and the so-called red/blue divide (which is really more of the City Folk vs the Country Folk). Look where the growth is concentrated: in small business in the economy, and in the "red state" areas far more than the urban "blue" areas. And there's the flip side: so much of the misery in our society, and much of its' ills, are concentrated in the cities.

A frontier also gives an outlet to the more entrepreneurial and/or aggressive members of society, where they can grow and strive and build without being restrained by the "older and wiser" heads of the established elites. Think about it, even in terms of technology, the entrepreneurs tend to be out west: Silicon Valley is the most obvious example. And where were so many of the original astronauts recruited from: Test Pilots. The cockiest, most aggressive, try-anything pilots there were (well, at least if you believe Tom Wolfe. . .  ). And, coincidentally, our first explorers of the High Frontier. . .

It all seems, at least to me, to point to the conclusion that if you want a prosperous America, and a dynamic Conservative Movement. . . you need a Frontier.

Which brings us back to where I came in: that radio host. Even when it was explained why the finding of water on the Moon was important, the host just didn't see WHY the Moon is important. That worries me: if a supposedly major conservative cannot see the value of the Moon as a New Frontier. . . maybe we HAVE gone too far, and are doomed to follow the path of Europe, into homogenized mediocrity. If so, then today is a sad day.

But, instead, I see a different vision. It CAN be Morning in America again. The Sun CAN rise over a peaceful, prosperous, conservative nation. It just needs a Frontier to set into. And all we have to do, is to look UP, instead of looking West, at the end of the day. . . .


Postscript, 2013.

We don't even have manned launch capability anymore, at least in NASA.  On the other hand, people like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are building spacecraft.  Hell, SpaceX is currently testing the "Grasshopper", a spacecraft-tester that takes off and lands vertically, the way God and Heinlein INTENDED rockets to operate. . . .

We may yet open the High Frontier. . . 

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