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50 years after Glenn: Let's hear it for space exploration

February 21. 2012 11:22PM

Political foes and news media gave Newt Gingrich grief when he traced a vision for an American colony on the moon. But we heard no one dissing former astronaut John Glenn when, on the 50th anniversary of his orbital flight, he decried the downsizing in space exploration.

Glenn, a Democrat, blamed space woes not on the Obama administration, but on George W. Bush's time. There is apparently no expiration date on blaming Bush, for anything and everything.

There was merit to what Gingrich proposed. Not suggesting burning a huge new hole in the budget, he was instead outlining a vision that would be encouraged by the national government but led by entrepreneurs and adventurers, much as in the early days of manned flight.

But there would be a place, too, for government, i.e., public support for a bold space initiative. There are national security implications to space exploration.

And there is much to be said for a nation's looking to its future as a way to inspire itself and bring on the kinds of innovation that came when Glenn, Alan B. Shepard Jr., and other early astronauts blazed a trail in the heavens.

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