Few things done by government are as fascinating, or have as much potential for long-term good, as space travel.
That is why most Americans no doubt will welcome President Bush's plans to return men to the moon. Bush is to announce his initiative Dec. 17, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
It has been more than three decades since man last set foot on the lunar surface and, despite some deadly setbacks, people probably are eager for another space adventure. It will only increase public enthusiasm if the president portrays the mission as a step toward fulfilling his father's dream of establishing a permanent presence there and ultimately sending men to Mars.
However, the government projects a record $475 billion budget deficit this fiscal year. That is a terrible burden to place on future generations. Until the budget is brought under control, the timing simply isn't right for costly new spending initiatives.
Congress could, if it had the political willpower, fund a new space initiative and perhaps still balance the budget. That would require a great deal of restraint with public money, which is unlikely.
For example, an $820 billion ominous spending bill is pending. The 1,500-page legislation is loaded with pork. A few examples, provided by Citizens Against Government Waste: $18.5 million to the International Fund for Ireland, $725,000 for the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia and $387,000 for a California library.
Bush should tell the American people the truth that government could do many things to enrich their lives if only Congress would stop wasting so much money.
Every dollar wasted is a dollar less that is available for space exploration.
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville - Dec. 8
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