As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.  Somehow it seemed realistic.  I’m all grown up now, and I’ll save you the suspense: no, I am not blogging from the moon.  I never entered the astronaut program – good thing too because as it turns out, America is no longer in the business of reaching the moon, or even the space station.  In fact, these days Ralph Kramden of “The Honeymooners” has better odds of getting Alice into space than NASA does of sending me!

We all know the story – President Kennedy declares America’s commitment to innovation in 1961 by telling the world we’d land on the moon within a decade’s time.  Eight years later, we threw down the gauntlet and word was sent forth: America will go to the ends of the Earth, and beyond, to protect her people and their interests.

Fast forward to present day – what a difference 40-years makes!  We’re set to scrap the space shuttle and take a five-year break from independent space travel until the Constellation program takes flight in 2015.  During the five-year transition from space shuttle to Constellation, American astronauts will have to pay Russia or China to enter space.  Doh!  How many rocket scientists does it take to figure out that putting ourselves at the mercy of Russia and China is a bad idea?

It’s bad enough that we’ll be paying our ‘friends’ billions of dollars to reach the space station your tax dollars paid for, but this pay-to-fly program puts us at risk.  Imagine trying to negotiate nuclear non-proliferation deals with Russia, China or their allies in Iran knowing that if our ‘buddies’ get pissed they’ll kick us out of their rockets!  It’s gotten so bad that according to the GAO, the space shuttle is one of 13 “urgent” issues that the next President should address.  How about it Mr. President-elect?  Are you, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi ready to put us back in the game or are you content to live in Russia and China’s cosmic dust?

It’s time to breathe some life back into the space shuttle.  The critics say that doing so limits our ability to move forward with the Constellation program, but what would JFK say?  Something tells me he’d challenge America to dig deep within its educational, financial, and innovative resources to resolve the issue.  And you know what?  I bet we would.

We’re Americans, innovation is what we do best.  Or at least it used to be…

L. Vance Taylor has worked to advance the mission of homeland security on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. One of only approximately 250 people in the nation with a Master’s degree in Homeland Security, Mr. Taylor combines specialized educational training with real-world experience to leverage successful outcomes for clients and stakeholders. Read More