When Sally Ride, the first woman to fly in space, died on Monday at the age of 61, President Barack Obama called her a “national hero and powerful role model” who “inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars.”
But Obama’s cuts to NASA’s budget, especially to programs dealing with the exploration of Mars and the moon, have made it virtually impossible for this generation of girls to dream about exploring new space frontiers. No woman has walked on the moon. And because of Obama’s NASA budget, that milestone is unlikely to happen in the near future.
When he was campaigning for president in August for 2008, then-candidate Obama said that America “cannot cede our leadership in space” and “that’s why why I'm going to close the gap, ensure that our space program doesn't suffer when the shuttle goes out of service.”
But Obama’s actions represent yet another one of his broken promises.
Obama slashed NASA’s Constellation program, effectively ending NASA’s manned moon missions and putting the future of manned space missions, in general, in considerable doubt.
His cuts have made America’s deep-space exploration projects dependent on other countries, such as Russia, to keep America’s astronauts in orbit. And while his NASA budget funds private companies to develop ways to enable more cost-effective, low-orbit manned space missions, it makes it impossible to explore the next frontiers of the universe.
When Sally Ride saw a NASA advertisement in the Stanford student newspaper that piqued her interest about becoming an astronaut, the frontier then was just beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Yet young American girls of this generation will not see job advertisements for potential explorers of the moon and Mars.
Decades later, new discoveries and technologies have extended the frontier further into space. But Obama’s space budget, a symbol of his un-exceptional declinism, makes it impossible for girls of this generation to dream about exploring those untapped frontiers in space.