MacKinnon: Next President Must Embrace JFK’s Space Vision

In a Houston Chronicle opinion piece titled “No place for partisans on NASA, space exploration,” former White House and Pentagon official Douglas MacKinnon invokes the spirit of a president who long ago sent his nation on a voyage to the moon.

“President John F. Kennedy addressed the importance of the United States having a vibrant and preeminent space program. ‘We mean to be part of it we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond. Our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to become the world’s leading spacefaring nation.’

“No matter who is our next president, he or she is either going to have to buy in completely to the premise of that young president, or stand aside and watch as other nations lay claim to the promise of space. There is no middle ground. John F. Kennedy understood it then, and the People’s Republic of China, with its ambitious manned space program run by its military, understands it now. Preeminence in space translates to economic, scientific, educational and national security advantages,” writes MacKinnon, who is now a Washington lobbyist.

He urges the new president not to cancel the Bush Administration’s Orion and Ares human space programs. MacKinnon also rails at the Office of Management of Budget, which he says has shortchanged NASA on its budget for finishing the space station by 2010. “Additionally, OMB has taken $3 billion away from the president’s space budget. Why? On who’s orders?” MacKinnon asks.

“Should our space program flounder, Chinese astronauts will establish the first bases on the moon, and the American people will be the poorer for our lack of leadership,” he concludes.