The Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was a time of intense national pride, of big dreams and technological advancement.
America invested in science and technology and people dreamed of a time in the not-to-distant future when space travel would be available to everyday people and where colonies would be established on the Moon, on Mars and perhaps even in faraway yet to be explored galaxies.
The Space Race brought very real benefits to America. Besides inspiring a generation of schoolchildren to take an interest in science, research conducted as part of the space program led to innovations including artificial limbs, baby formula, the cell phone camera, freeze-dried food, MRI and CAT scans and much more.
The Soviet commitment to space exploration sparked America’s own competitive spirit. We refused to be outdone. The Space Race is one good thing that came out of the Cold War because the competition brought out the same spirit within us that drove us to conquer the West and to build dams, bridges, railroads and factories that made America prosperous and strong.
Numerous studies confirm the tremendous economic benefits achieved by America’s space program. For example, an analysis by the Midwest Research Institute found $25 billion spent on civilian research and development from 1959-1969 returned $52 billion through 1970 and continued to reap dividends for the economy totaling $181 billion through 1987.
However, as the Soviet Union declined, so did America’s own commitment to space exploration. Today, with the Soviet Union gone, America is the world’s only superpower, although maybe not for long as the rapid development of the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – may soon dramatically alter the balance of power.
Meanwhile, our education system is failing to equip young people with real skills by focusing on silly things like “microagressions,” or banning the word “man” instead of real skills like welding. We’ve turned into a society afraid of our own food, afraid of saying anything politically incorrect and afraid of harming an endangered Brazilian water beetle. You might call all this the wussification of America.
Breaking this state of inertia requires political leadership and a reevaluation of our current priorities. As John F. Kennedy stated before Congress in 1961, at the height of the Space Race:
“Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.”
It’s time for America to look to the stars once again, to dream once again. Greatness requires hard work and dedication, but if we’re willing to accept the challenge, we can accomplish great things, inspire future generations and set new milestones for humanity.