The McBournie Minute: Finish the space station already

With a space shuttle landing yesterday and the Discovery Channel’s three-part documentary about NASA, When We Left Earth, space has been in the news a lot lately. Of course, space is all about cooperation and brotherly love these days. But for the first 40 years of space flight there was more of an “eff you, we’re going to beat you there” mentality. Perhaps we need to go back to that, if for no other reason than to get things done.

I remember first hearing about the International Space Station when I was in fourth grade, this was 1993 One of my teachers put on the overhead projector a snapshot of how the ISS would look when it was completed. A couple years later, I remember stumbling across it in an encyclopedia, I was probably looking for the definition of “isthmus” or something. There again was a computer-generated model of the huge structure orbiting the Earth. The caption underneath it said it would be completed around the year 2000.

It’s 2008 and the damn thing still is not finished.

Blame weather, lack of international cooperation, funding or even the post-Columbia grounding of the space shuttle fleet, but we are way behind on this thing. Worst of all, we have been building this for ten years. The first capsules went up in 1998 and they have been going up sporadically ever since. Since 1998, I have completed high school, I have completed college and I have even started a career in journalism. Children born when the first launches happened are now as old as I was when I first heard about the project.

After John Glenn orbited the Earth in 1962, President John F. Kennedy made a speech challenging the U.S., and in turn its rival, the U.S.S.R., to go to the moon. Less than seven years later we did it. Our current president wants NASA to take us back to the moon, and then to Mars, in the next 10 to 15 years. Will it happen on time? Doubtful.

We don’t have bad guys to compete against. There is no space race anymore, so the capitalist system founders in space with no competition. We need someone to challenge us and to make us fund these projects. But first we need to get the ISS built before the technology is so antiquated we need to start planning a new one. We need competition to get it done faster and we need to put our country’s pride on the line. The good news is that the space station will be completed next year, despite all the delays.

I’d just like to know who designed that thing with just one toilet.