Addison Gardner: Always Right | AspenTimes.com

Addison Gardner: Always Right

Addison Gardner
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

As a child, I marveled at America’s first flea-hops into space.

I was 10 when Alan Shepard rode a Redstone rocket into space in 1961, and I had just graduated high school when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in the summer of 1969. I grew up juggling those technological triumphs with political assassinations, watching the first “reality television” through a black-and-white porthole in our living room.

President Kennedy pushed us into space before his rendezvous with Lee Harvey Oswald in ’63, and both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King died in the spring of ’68, when the moon loomed largest in our future.

There was much to mourn, but also much to celebrate, and underscoring it all was the thrumming vibrancy of Vietnam – a background chop of whirring blades and rock ‘n’ roll.

It was a time of M-shaped highs and lows, but we fully expected to defeat Communism and walk on Mars before the millennium.

Then the Challenger disaster changed everything in 1986, and Krista McAuliffe’s death – blamed on a “foreseeable o-ring failure” – ensnared NASA with the Lilliputian ropes of bureaucracy. The agency became inward looking. It focused on funding and political security, instead of besting gravity en route to Mars.

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NASA’s Space Shuttle program has become a metaphor for the death of American boldness: It’s the difference between aiming for the moon, versus boarding a bus to the Denver Civic Center. The International Space Station is a string of coffee cans welded together with political butt covering.

It’s a communal conglomeration of rotational “space junk,” and it will be abandoned in 2015.

The death of the Shuttle Columbia was worse than Challenger, because we saw it coming. By February 2003, NASA had long been aware of the chunks of ice raining down on orbiters from their solid propellant tanks on lift-off. The briefcase of icy foam that killed Columbia’s seven-member crew was simply the loaded chamber of chance meeting the firing pin of bureaucratic ineptitude.

We knew, post-launch, that Columbia’s crew was going to die on re-entry, and we had time to warn the Texas ranchers below.

Our decades-old shuttle fleet (three remaining orbiters) will be retired next year, so NASA has ramped up its launch schedule and postponed the refitment of its oldest orbiters. Shuttle Atlantis, scheduled to launch next Monday, was due to be retired in 2008.

Commissioned in 1985, Atlantis’ 24 helium and nitrogen fuel tanks were designed to last 10 years. They were “recertified” to last another 10 in 1995. By 2005, those tanks could no longer be certified “safe” under launch pressures, so NASA decided to “clear the launch pad of all non-essential personnel” during lift-off.

Network cameramen will be filming from a safe distance, if the astronauts vaporize.

Like a coach emptying his bench during the waning seconds of a blowout, NASA’s managers trumpet that Atlantis will carry “… two African-American astronauts!” and ignore the fact that large chunks of ice continue to crash down from above.

The Russian Research Module is running low on toilet paper.

In the nation’s capital, late Saturday night, Speaker Pelosi announced the triumphal launch of “landmark health care legislation.” It rumbled off its Capitol launch pad with an empty fuel tank and an equally empty cockpit – but a cargo bay loaded with the stuff that toilet paper is made for.

Maybe it’s not too late to reroute Atlantis and schedule an in-flight rendezvous.

One thing’s for sure: For $1.2 trillion (plus next year’s $3.4 trillion Democratic budget) every American citizen should own a condominium overlooking the Sea of Tranquility, and Nancy Pelosi should be serving Mai Tais instead of swine flu shots.

Instead of paying the family doctor with cash, Americans will pay government with new taxes.

This is explained in a 2,000-page bill nobody has read, but which promises to deliver “government efficiency,” plus the “elimination of fraud and waste,” plus expanded services for more Americans with fewer doctors.

According to a recent IBD/TIPP Poll, 45 percent of doctors surveyed in September say they’d consider quitting, or retiring early, if Pelosi’s “single-payer reform” becomes law. Not to worry: We can send disgruntled patients to screenings of Michael Moore’s “Sicko” or shuttle them to Cuba, the home of cost-free Castro-care.

Nancy knows that Americans reject a government takeover of health care – by double-digit polling margins – but she doesn’t care: America’s collective health is too important to trust to individual choice.

Remember: There can be no hive without a queen bee – whether we’re flying to the stars, or just catching our Government Motors shuttle to visit our physician’s assistants at our new, government health care clinics.

Buckle up: We’re going where mankind has gone before.

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