Opinion: Exploring the space between Americans

TITUSVILLE, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis now hangs in a vast hall, a prime attraction for the Kennedy Space Center here on Florida’s eastern coast. Its 33rd and final mission ended just over six years ago, capping 30 years and 135 flights for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Photo by Kyle Wingfield

Looking at the Atlantis on a recent visit, it was hard to decide if it appears paused in mid-flight — or trapped in a thin, clear amber.

Six years is long enough that neither of my children can remember watching a manned flight launched by NASA. For those of us who grew up watching space-shuttle launches on TV, that seems strange. All the more so, I suspect, for Americans reared with astronauts such as Alan Shepard and Buzz Aldrin as their heroes and celebrities.

The private sector is assuming the old mission of spacecraft like the Atlantis: shuttling passengers and cargo into low-Earth orbit. NASA itself plans more manned missions in the future, going back to the moon in preparation for an eventual mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Sending man to Mars would mark the kind of exploratory breakthrough reminiscent of NASA’s glory days. Yet, try to think of a conversation you’ve had or even overheard about the mission. If you’re like me, you’ll come up empty.

I didn’t live through the 1960s, but my understanding is the moon challenge issued by President Kennedy, and America’s determined progress toward it in competition with the Soviets, was much more top of mind.

It’s not that NASA’s technological prowess is lacking. The images and information relayed back to Earth from the Curiosity rover on Mars, the Juno mission to Jupiter and the Hubble space telescope, among other missions, have often been breathtaking and ground-breaking. The problems to be overcome if a manned Mars mission is to succeed are numerous and daunting, yet NASA seems confident it can resolve them within the next two decades.

This may be more a matter of Americans’ studied and ever-greater retreat from the notion of national purpose.

As Yuval Levin documents well in his excellent 2016 book, “The Fractured Republic,” the 1950s and ’60s were a unique era regarding national unity. Americans were coming off several decades in which various forces — a pair of world wars, a depression, the rise of mass media — pushed them toward consensus politically, economically and culturally. Ever since, we have been moving in the opposite direction of individualization.

The ’50s and ’60s, Levin argues, represented a brief, perhaps unrepeatable moment when we retained enough of the consensus to get behind national initiatives while enjoying enough of the (small-L) liberalization to unlock the creativity and dynamism to achieve them.

Such as sending men to the moon.

The political ramifications of the fracturing he describes go well beyond the fate of NASA and its missions. But I wonder if we have lost the spirit of unity that propelled that age of exploration, and may be necessary for the next one.

One could imagine, for instance, President Trump pointing to Mars as a MAGA-worthy example of national greatness. And, just as easily, his critics on both the left and the right branding it as either committing ideological apostasy (cut spending!) or ignoring more pressing problems (butter, not rockets!) at home.

To bridge that divide might require not space travel, but time travel.

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485 comments
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hasako
hasako

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Doomy
Doomy

Lordy, after years and years of violent leftist protests- Seattle, Dallas, Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland, and on and on the leftist kooks finally get upset over a violent protest- one that would have been avoided had the counter protesters not showed up to add fuel to the fire. 


Perhaps if they would treat all violent protests with equal disgust and equal fervor then we wouldn't have the continuous cycle of leftist violence followed by the inevitable backlash of rightist violence. 

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Doomy and we were all disgusted by those events when violence took place.  For some reason, the right refuses to be disgusted over this one.  Why?

Starik
Starik

@JFMcNamara @Doomy  The stated purpose of the rally was to unite the various splinters of the very far right, and they were clearly looking for trouble. Of course, some on the far left were happy to oblige. Look on the bright side. No shootings. 

gotalife
gotalife

The nazis uses cars to kill like isis.


Just add the nazis to the no fly list and label them a terror group.


Take them out of society.

Doomy
Doomy

@gotalife


Nope. You arrest the ones that actually commit violence or who are plotting violence. The rest of them, no matter how detestable they may be, have the right to free speech just like anyone else. 

Starik
Starik

@Doomy @gotalife  I have to agree with Doomy on this one. People on either side who show up with shields, sticks, helmets body armor etc. are not demonstrating or protesting peacefully. 

gotalife
gotalife

The greatest generation killed the nazis.


The worst failed generation elected one.


Just another terror group and part of the war on terror.


Treat them like the rest of the terrorists.


Not complicated.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Apparently, the Left is in overtime printing race cards.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@JohnnyReb I'm tired of you saying this.   The right is more involved in race separation and using the race card.


This weekend, racist white supremacists held a rally to keep a statue of a 150 years ago war where people fought AGAINST America.  They gave Nazi salutes, carried torches, racists flags, and had speakers who specifically claim to be white racists.


During the weekend, one of the racists went full terrorist and rammed his car into a crowd of people.


Finally, the people of the city of Charlottesville wanted the statue removed.  They didn't ask white racists to come there.  They made a decision about what they wanted for their city.  Rather than respecting their rights,  these white racists came from across the country to bully the city into keeping the statue.  If they had not come, none of this happens.   Removing the statue is the city's choice.  They didn't start anything or want the people to come.  The white supremecists came to start trouble and did.


Finally, think about your moral equivalence.  People on the left have been rallying about people being killed on video by the police.  These terrorists are mad about a statue in a city they dont live. Life or death versus a statue.  They don't seem equally important.

Doomy
Doomy

@JFMcNamara @JohnnyReb


" The right is more involved in race separation and using the race card."


Complete and total nonsense. The extremists that showed up in Charlottesville are extremely small in number. Have some freaking perspective, dude. 


The main line Republicans across the U.S. de-emphasize race. Its the extreme left that is continuously dividing people by race(BLM, Ferguson, Baltimore, etc) and which features race grievance as part of their usual diatribes. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@JFMcNamara @JohnnyReb 

You're not going to erace the civil war and condemn those ancestors of Americans who fought for the confederacy to historic infamy by removing a confederate generals statue. If that becomes another act of political correctness in America all memorials and statues including those honoring the Northern union should be removed. Then we can all pretend the civil war never happened.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit @JFMcNamara @JohnnyReb This is the stupidest comment ever.  They are moving and selling the statues to museums.


Why do we need to honor traitors who fought AGAINST the United States?   It's history.  It happened.  All the people who want the confederacy to live on are either racists or traitors.  Which are you?

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@JFMcNamara @SGTGrit @JohnnyReb

"Why do we need to honor traitors who fought AGAINST the United States?   It's history.  It happened.  All the people who want the confederacy to live on are either racists or traitors.  Which are you?"

Your reply is a reflection of not just stupidity but also unAmerican propaganda. Those who fought for the confederacy were not traitors they fought for what they believed in and those beliefs went far beyond just the issue of slavery. Of course in your ignorance you wouldn't understand that. Now if you want to call me a white racist I'll write you off as a black racist.

breckenridge
breckenridge

Republican presidents have a history of slamming these white supremacy outfits hard.  Ronald Reagan smacked them in a big way.  George H W Bush hammered David Duke when he first arrived on the scene, said his garbage had nothing to do with conservatism.  Nor did George W give them the time of day.


It's really quite simple - Trump needs to step up to the plate and lambast these jerks.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge

There's jerks on both sides and if the one's on the Left aren't as easily recognizable look no further than the ones who want to take down the Lee statute.

That is what started it.

Doomy
Doomy

@JohnnyReb @breckenridge


It's not just that. The counter protesters who engaged in violence deserve just as much blame. How it is that they get a pass in the melee yesterday when they were every bit as responsible for violence is a mystery. 

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

So how is that Southern strategy working Cons?


George Wallace sure would be proud of today's GOP with white supremacists and bigots like Bannon, Miller and Gorka advising the big Buffoon on how to keep Duke and those NeoNazis happy.



Sorry to see your party imploding after Orange Clown blamed both sides.

Doomy
Doomy

@skruorangeclown


George Wallace was a lifelong Democrat to his death, silly. 


As for blaming both sides Trump is right. It takes 2 to tangle. And as detestable as the white supremacists are they do have the right to free speech. Had they not been attacked by counter protesters who are just as violent perhaps none of this would have happened. 


Republican implosion? Hardly. You can keep wishing, though. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

“We willed Donald Trump into office. We made this dream our reality. For us, it is conquer or die. For us, as Europeans, it is only normal again when we are great again? Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”  Richard Spencer, co-founder of the alt- right.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge

I'm not wasting my time looking up an exact reference, but assure you there are just as many nuts on the Left who babble stupidity that fosters hate from the Right.

breckenridge
breckenridge

"The removal of the Robert E. Lee statue is about white genocide. It’s about the replacement of our people, culturally and ethnically.”  Jason Kessler, organizer of the Charolettesville protest.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge

Removal of the statute is yet another example of the Left taking things too far and not knowing when to stop.

It's evident in almost all things from the Left.

breckenridge
breckenridge

"This is an event which seeks to unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown, to speak out against displacement level immigration policies in the United States and Europe, and to affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution."  Michael Hill, president, League of the South, on the Charlottesville protest.

breckenridge
breckenridge

"This represents a turning point.  We will fulfill the promises of Donald Trump and take our country back."  David Duke, former Grand Wizard, KKK, in Charlottesville, Va., 8-12-2017

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Evidently this clash was between those who were protesting the removal of a statue honoring Robert E. Lee and those who were counter protesting. The protests got out of hand and violence broke out with one act of horrific violence that resulted in the death of a young woman and 19 other people. The perpetrator is in custody charged with second degree murder and other related felony offenses. He should and likely will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law that will probably include a hate crime.


Having said that we have a hysterical far-left along with the media declaring that all the protesters were White supremacists and the counter protesters were all innocent victims. The fact is you probably had some but by no means all White racists clashing with some but not all Black racists. The lefts sanctimony is not helpful in easing tension.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Correction on my last...should have been 19 other people injured.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@SGTGrit  There are 3 dead.  If the protesters weren't white supremacists what were they?  Also there seemed to be more white anti protesters than black anti-protesters based on he pictures.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

These people are nazis and KKK members. The protesters were all white supremacists. If they think they aren't, they need to do some serious self reflection.

Secondly, their history is lynching people and the mass extinction of Jews. The fact that you finally sort of condemn the terrorist is negated by the fact that you felt the need to defend them. You clearly support them or are a member. Why not just admit to yourself what everyone who frequents this blog already knows...?

If you are willing to stand next to people like this, the only person who thinks you are not a white supremacist is you.

https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/598f811c140000171aed0652.jpg?ops=scalefit_720_noupscale

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/56166763/810888668.0.jpg

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@BuckeyeGa @SGTGrit 

The gathering was called to protest the removal of a confederate general's statue. How does it make those protesting that removal White supremacists? Does being a rapper, a member of black lives matter, a member of the new black panthers make them black supremacists?

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@JFMcNamara 

With your assumptive attitude it makes you a black supremacist. 

Doomy
Doomy

@BuckeyeGa @SGTGrit


One person was murdered. The 2 officers died in a helicopter crash which could have happened at any time during training or during any other police response where a helicopter is needed. 

Doomy
Doomy

@SGTGrit @JFMcNamara


I see that he has already made the predictable leap of accusing you of being a white supremacist. We couldn't see that coming could we? 

Doomy
Doomy

@SGTGrit @Doomy @JFMcNamara


He's definitely a bigot. His various posts over the years, dripping with accusations of racism against anyone to the right of Karl Marx indicates he is a very race based thinker, consumed by it in fact. And that is a very sad thing to witness. 

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Doomy @SGTGrit @JFMcNamara I didn't assume anything about anybody, and I didn't call anyone anything.


My problem with you is simple.  The people who showed up were white supremacists.   There is no doubt.  There was a terrorist attack at the event.  


WHY AREN'T YOU MAD?  You are on here all the time angrily accusing the left of everything, but won't say one word about this.  WHY?  Where are the condemnations?  


Answer the question, and there is no room to assume.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit @Doomy @JFMcNamara I assumed someone standing next to a nazi and supporting them is a white supremacist.  


What else are they?  I mean, if you are at an event planned by white supremacists,  standing next to white supremacist,  and supporting their cause, then what are you?


Are you a sympathizer?  Are you just an issues based voter who showed up at a white supremacist rally?  At what point can we safely assume someone is a white supremacist?   I didn't think that was a big leap.

breckenridge
breckenridge

"Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” US Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, 10-12-2017

Too bad we have a fake-conservative pathetic sack of crap in the White House who won't call the white supremacists out because they are part of his base.  What a worthless sack of crap.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Pathetic that we have the far-left nut cases on here who don't say one word when some anti-police POS murders a cop in cold blood but listen to them now when some disgusting fool drives a car into a group of protesters that have a one sided view of free speech. Hopefully, we are not going to see the race riots of the 60's but left wing sanctimony won't help to ease tension it will only make it worse. Maybe they want it to be worse.

dahreese
dahreese

@SGTGrit " left wing sanctimony won't help to ease tension it will only make it worse."

And your suggestion to make it better is...?

dahreese
dahreese

@SGTGrit @dahreese Well...I'm curious as to your charge of left wing sanctimony. What do you mean, exactly?


And how will left wing sanctimony make things 'worse?'

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@SGTGrit This is simply not true.  There is not one liberal here who didn't denounce the murders in Baton Rouge and Dallas.  Not one.  There is not one liberal that didnt denounce Nice, Paris, Brussels or any other terrorist attack.  


In some cases, I commented against your rhetoric by saying that it was not Islams faults, not completely unexpected because of the videos of cop killings and being acquitted, but I can't remember one liberal that ever said that the violence was right and didn't readily acknowledge it.


The fact that I asked you 3 times to denounce the events in Charlotte and you didn't says all that needs to be said about you.  Even if you think liberals are hypocritical, it has nothing to do with how you value right and wrong.  There is no excuse for you not denouncing today's terrorist attacks.   You simply wont denounce it because you agree with what he did.  Just own it, because we already know you do from your responses.

dahreese
dahreese

@JFMcNamara @SGTGrit Trump's response was rather 'pithy.'


Any time anything goes wrong that has to do with him, his response is "Lawd! "h't ain't me!"

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

@dahreese @Starik @SGTGrit all that white bigotry and racial hate today being justified by SGT based on some anti- police POS ( code for black folks) killing cops. Just like Trump justifying today's violence by "both sides" being at fault. 



Germans said the same to justify Nazi violence in the thirties.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@skruorangeclown @dahreese @Starik 

@SGTGrit 

If it were true that there is no such thing as Black racism you would be correct in your criticism of Trump's comment about both sides being at fault. But there is in fact both White and Black racism. Neither should be condoned. The 20 year old from Ohio who plowed a vehicle into a crowd of counter protesters should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and evidently, will be. I don't think left-wing sanctimony is helpful to relieving tension.