Cancel Webb? America must dream bigger

November 01, 2011

What does it say about our country that a marvel like the Webb telescope faces possible cancellation after years of development and with its components 75 percent complete? We face budget problems, I understand. But boundary-pushing missions like Apollo, Mars rovers, and the Webb are fundamental to the American character — we go where no one's ever been, and do things no one else can do.

Other nations aren't slowing down. China is launching a new space station, and its Chang'e probe just mapped the moon and is now parked at the L2 Lagrange orbital point, more than a million kilometers from earth.

Meanwhile, NASA has announced a new heavy rocket but proposes an anemic schedule that doesn't launch until 2017. U.S. companies say they can deliver crew to the International Space Station by 2015, but NASA wants a delay there as well.

The space program is responsible for innovation that touches every aspect of American life from digital computers to cordless tools to CT scans and anti-lock brakes. But such advances don't grow out of modest programs that re-purpose existing technologies. It takes big new goals to accomplish big new things. Investments like this inspire our youth and create long-term job growth. They are where America's future success lies.

Hopefully, our Congress will remember to dream big.

Charles H. Huettner, Alexandria, Va.

The writer is executive director of the Aerospace States Association.

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