- - Monday, October 31, 2016

President John F. Kennedy challenged our great nation to go to the moon “in this decade,” and just eight years later, we heard Neil Armstrong’s legendary words spoken from the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Our space program helped America become the undisputed leader for generations in high technology, created countless jobs and prosperity, and our national pride and international respect soared to high levels.

We have not returned to the moon in 44 years, but just when we were getting on track for bold missions to the moon and then Mars, President Obama dealt American space exploration an almost fatal blow, which handed China and other nations a decade’s head start.

Hillary Clinton may give us more of Mr. Obama’s anti-space policies, and divert even more space exploration funding to global warming theory advocacy. America cannot afford to lose another four years while other nations race for the moon and Mars and reap all the rewards.

America’s presence and leadership in space, including eventual bases on the moon and Mars are more important than just the benefits to our economy and other domestic concerns; they are a national security necessity as well. Whether we believe China will not try to claim orbital space, the moon or Mars as its own, it is setting a poor example in the South China Sea, where it is trying to destroy 400 years of freedom of the seas and seize the sovereign waters and territories of many nations in the region.

Further, in the absence of American leadership, space dominated by the dictatorships would be hostile to commercial ventures, including space tourism, asteroid mining, CubeSats and even private ventures to the moon and Mars.

These are the stakes for the next president. However, Mrs. Clinton has not made a break with Mr. Obama’s disastrous retreat in space exploration, which would offer a continuing and dangerous window of opportunity to China.

Donald Trump intends to have a more strategically focused space program, and he is now rekindling the hopes and dreams of Americans to restore our space program and the high-tech jobs we need to restore our economy. Mr. Trump announced his space goals in a speech in Sanford, Fla., declaring he would make “major investments in space exploration,” and would “substantially expand public-private partnerships to maximize the amount of investment and funding that is available for space exploration and development.” This will free up NASA and commercial space to actually return Americans to the moon and go to Mars.

Showing he intends far greater goals in space than merely the president’s controversial and unpopular Asteroid Redirect Mission, Mr. Trump emphasized, “This means launching and operating major space assets right here [in Florida] that employ thousands, and spur innovation, and fuel economic growth.”

Mr. Trump “will repurpose [NASA’s] mission on space exploration. Under a Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars.” It is time to take the next giant leaps, and to once again feel the pride of America’s bold leadership in space and see students beating down the doors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes to build exciting careers in space-related industries.

Our space program is in trouble, and in spite of NASA’s “Journey to Mars” hashtag and PowerPoint shows, there are no plans to send astronauts to Mars or the moon. White House-dictated plans call for just one mission of interest during the next 15 years, which might collect samples from an asteroid. Landings on Mars or the moon are not on the drawing board in spite of rhetoric promising otherwise.

By contrast, a Trump space agenda might include a truly captivating exploration mission to send astronauts on a flyby around Mars a decade earlier than NASA imagines. Establishing a small lunar research base in the early 2020s where we will learn the lessons needed for successful missions to Mars in the 2030s. Developing the exact plans and hardware for the historic moment an American astronaut takes the first step onto the dusty, red soil of Mars. Those are goals worthy of a great nation.

It may be that only a successful businessman can restore our space program after eight years of politically dictated decline and detours. As Mr. Trump opened his new hotel in Washington, D.C., he announced it was accomplished “under budget and ahead of schedule” — words almost forbidden in this bureaucratic city. Indeed, Mr. Trump has proved over decades he can make bold plans, execute them efficiently and achieve the desired results.

These skills, applied to restoring our space program, can make America great again in space, and Americans would be taking new small steps and giant leaps onto the moon and Mars sooner than many believe possible.

Art Harman is the director of the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration.

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