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June 19th, 2009
08:39 AM ET

Dear President Obama #151: Bang! Zoom! Right to the moon ... again

Reporter's Note: President Barack Obama, unlike some Commanders in Chief, welcomes ideas from the public about how to run America. So far he appears to have rejected my idea for Whacky Hair Mondays, and a mid-August Burrito-Fest! But I keep trying with a letter each day to my neighbor over on Pennsylvania Avenue.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/06/18/nasa.rocket/art.lro.launch.nasa.jpg caption="A rocket-propelled lunar orbiter lifts off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Thursday on its way to the moon."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I know I have talked about this subject before, but I must say I was delighted to see that rocket blast off taking that NASA probe toward the moon! Just like a visit to a favorite restaurant in a distant town, (like the old Alley Cat in Missoula! Which, I think is closed now…) it’s been decades since we last strolled around the lunar surface, and a return trip is overdue.

Plenty of critics, of course, will disagree with me; folks who say we have too many problems here at home to be wasting money on picnics in space, especially if we have no idea precisely what we will get for our dollars. And you may be surprised to hear me say, fair enough. They have a reasonable point and one that ought to be considered.

But I have a point too. America is a land of innovation, invention, and exploration. (For crying out loud, we came up with Gilligan’s Island!) The final frontier, to paraphrase Kirk, really is space. Do we know what lies out there? No. But neither did ancient proto-humans who followed the herds and the seasons across uncharted lands in search of new homes and better lives. Neither did long ago sailors who pushed to sea despite rumors of monsters, storms, fanged reefs, and Tyra Banks. Neither did scientists who braved the scorn of their peers, the condemnation of their religions, and persecution by their governments to explain the mysteries of nature. Neither did artists who abandoned the respectable to embrace the revolutionary. Neither did Brad before he met Angelina! (Well, ok, it is possible they had heard of each other before the first date.)

America needs its economy revived to be sure, and that may demand many costly, difficult, earthly commitments. We must be careful about our deficit, and all the services our growing population might require. But we also need, I think, a revival of our imagination. For all of our worries, we must also restore our dreams. (And I don’t just mean that one about the squirrels and the beach ball that drives me so nutty) We need to look into the depths of the oceans, the puzzles of science, the beauty of the arts, the might of our industry and technology, the glory of our education, and the extraordinary interactions between cultures that travel and the Internet have put onto our doorsteps, and we need to reach…for greatness.

Have you been to the Air and Space Museum lately? If you get a moment, give me a call and we’ll squeeze in a visit. It speaks to technology, discovery, tenacity, bravery; but most of all it speaks to the need of humans to reach out into their universe and explore.

My father and I stood outside our home in Illinois one bitter winter night, years ago when I was just a grade schooler. It was around 3 in the morning, the yard was crusted in snow, and we had arisen from our beds to watch an eclipse of the moon. Our breath formed icy clouds while the shadow of earth spread over that distant, cratered land. We waited the full cycle, ducking in and out of the warm house, to see the moon emerge brilliant and white again against the eternity of space.

Mankind has waited long enough to return to the moon. You have told us to hope, to dream again. Here’s my dream, and Buzz said it too…to infinity and beyond.

Regards,

Tom

Find more of the Foreman Letters, here.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. David Evan

    For the visionary in all of us that can't be quantified in a budget subcomittee meeting, it's nice to have your supporting voice.

    Given the number of technologies to help folks here on earth that have come out of the space program, microcomputers being one, of course NASA funding also makes empirical sense.

    Now we are faced with a decision to make on universal health care. More than a moon shot, we know this to be the right thing to do, regardless of the costs.

    June 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  2. William Courtland

    So I would like to spin my own hollywood prophecy: the untruth of the future: the future where the United States does not install an update to the postal routes...

    The year would be 2038, in 2016 the gas prices never returned to a normal level... life in civilized method kept up, but degraded as the crunch continued: the car was adapted with electrical power: the batteries unable to hold more than a six hour charge for a large voltage automobile: the electrical train engines could still do little but shuffle light train cars from short haul to short haul: and the trains were now under six cars in length: the rail was returning to coal and steam locomotion... horses were on a comeback: but when the second major oil field was proven empty: hell broke loose: when the tractor and the food it generated rose to a price so high that most people could not afford a loaf of bread on a regular salary: life disintergrated: the year is 2038: and the final un-revolution has begun... a few of us are fighting for a normal life: following the ways of the Amish... but the hordes outside these walls... I hear it is bad all over the world... in so places life didn't change much: and in others the starvations have past the point of peaking... the death tole a number... almost unbariable... last rights abandoned in such times...

    Such a television show would be a good motivator to build the update to the postal service... what other alternative for ground based travel and trade do we have?

    June 20, 2009 at 6:41 am |
  3. Ever B.

    "and Buzz said it too…to infinity and beyond."

    Was that a Toy Story reference?

    Tom, I love you now.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  4. sandra

    Hear hear! I love it and agree. Who are we without dreams and curiosity? I really hope Mr. Obama reads your letters.

    June 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  5. Kenn Love in Indiana

    Six hundred million is a high price for patriotism.
    Seems the country could spend that money elsewhere usefully, instead of sending a rocket to the moon to, what? check for ice crystals? get our last flag back? find shadowy enigmas to give scientists extra excuses to return. What a waste of resources, utterly. Meanwhile, back on Earth, my neighbor is being evicted from the house he's lived in and paid mortages for for ten years because he can no longer afford the payments to the bank his taxes are currently succoring to keep open because he lost his job due to a factory closure....."Dreams" occur only when the conscience is unseared, otherwise they are nightmares. Wake up.

    June 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  6. Dan M.

    I think that major funding for NASA should probably be put on hold for a few years; however, we are a nation of explorers. You are right, that is a tradition we have forgotten. In fact–forget the moon–I want to see a man or woman land on Mars!! This has to be done in a way that does not add to the deficit though, and we can't forget that last time I checked, China owned $767.9 Billion in U.S. Treasuries, but there has to be a way for us to walk and chew gum at the same time, or, in other words, pay back China as we work on landing a man or woman on Mars.

    June 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  7. Linda B., Ga.

    I think ALL NASA projects should be put on HOLD until our economy is doing better. Going back to the moon can wait for a few years.

    June 19, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  8. Krasi

    Great! It is just beyond me how people nowadays think of exploration as a thing of the past, as if there is nothing new to discover. And no one is even amazed when another group of brave people go into space. Their attitude is, we had a man on the moon, there's nothing there, why spend money to keep doing it?

    Not to meniton how science classes, so exciting to me when I was a student, are considered boring and something to avoid. Very disappointed with the education system!

    June 19, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  9. Cindy

    Good letter Tom. Yeah we do have a lot of problems going on in the U.S. right about now but I too think that we still need to have our space program up and running. I think it still does enough that it warrants it. And hey..we do need to go back to the moon again! It's been a while! I can think of a few people I'd like to take up there and leave! LOL

    Cindy..Ga.

    June 19, 2009 at 9:45 am |