In preparation for the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001, the newspaper USA Today ran a souvenir edition for January 19-21, 2001. In this edition, the published a series of “Dear Mr. President” letters. I thought this was a good idea and late on evening just before the deadline for submission, I wrote the following letter. As the USA Today may do something similar for the inauguration of the next president, you may wish to be considering what advice you would offer to the new president about the importance of space to America.
“In 2003, during George W. Bush’s presidency, the USA will celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight.
“From the Wright brothers’ first flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C., and Dayton, Ohio, to the Apollo 11 flight by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon fewer than 70 years later, the rapid advancement of aerospace technology represents one of our nation’s greatest achievements. These advancements substantially shaped our nation and the world during the 20th century through worldwide transportation and communications.
“Previous presidents have established national goals that guided the nation in building infrastructure critical to its future: George Washington with the national road; Abraham Lincoln with the transcontinental railroad; Theodore Roosevelt with the Panama Canal; Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt with the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams; and Dwight Eisenhower with the interstate highway system. Such infrastructure building, as we are now witnessing with the Internet, is an essential element of our nation’s economic and technological world leadership.
“Forty years ago this coming May, barely three weeks after the first American suborbital flight by Alan Shepard, President Kennedy transformed the fledgling American space program with his bold Apollo initiative. He set clear, challenging goals for the American aerospace community that established perhaps the greatest legacy of his presidency.
“Now, at the dawn, of the new century, Bush should fire the imaginations and ambitions of our youth and all Americans — not just with an Apollo-style space program, but with the bolder vision of a true spacefaring nation as well. This would realize the full potential of the revolution of flight that the Wright brothers began in their bicycle shop in Dayton and on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk. It also would set the stage for the 21st century as the era of space flight, with the USA clearly leading the way.”
World circumstances following September 11, 2001 did not favor President Bush undertaking such a bold initiative. In its place, we have only the Apollo-like Vision for Space Exploration with a plan to return humans to the moon as a scientific expedition with no follow-up. An opportunity was lost with the administration of President Bush. We must now turn our attention to the next president so that the opportunity is not again lost.
Corrective note: Legislation for the national road was begun under President Jefferson, not President Washington.