Space Exploration Can Unite A Divided Nation

Convershaken Staff
February 28, 2017
 

American space exploration is enjoying its greatest renaissance since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Like all of Donald Trump's policies, his interstellar ambitions have controversial elements, but they may be his best hope of uniting the nation.

Interest in space has soared in recent weeks. The president vowed to "unlock the mysteries of space" during his inauguration speech. Hidden Figures, a film about the black women who played a vital role in the space race but were written out of history, secured three Oscar nominations and has netted over $180m at the global box office

NASA, the US space agency, recently discovered seven Earth-like planets orbiting a star less than 40 light years away. Rocket company SpaceX intends to ferry two tourists around the Moon and back by the end of next year. And SpaceX boss Elon Musk recently told analysts: "I think a Mars mission would be amazing and really energise the public, domestically and worldwide, just as the Apollo mission to the Moon did almost half a century ago."

In the current atmosphere of division and dismay, Musk's vision of a unifying space programme might seem out of this world. It could also come at an exorbitant cost: the president has trumpeted an increased focus on manned exploration of deep space, but at the expense of Earth and climate-science research (although that may be easier said than done). 

Nonetheless, victory in the space race remains one of the greatest achievements in American history. It's easy to imagine liberals and conservatives rallying behind a manned mission to Mars and cheering on the intrepid astronauts as they blast off. Indeed, Democratic President John F Kennedy set the goal of putting a man on the Moon, while his Republican successor Richard Nixon welcomed the astronauts home after their giant leap for mankind.

A revitalised space programme could do more to 'Make America Great Again' than any of Trump's other proposals, while simultaneously advancing our understanding of the universe. It could generate a rare combination of patriotic goodwill and both scientific and technological breakthroughs. Most importantly, it would tick the box of feeding Trump's ego without eroding American values or damaging international relations. It's not rocket science: start the countdown.