The Providence Journal recently published an editorial entitled, “China heads for the moon.” It warned that China, with its recent launch of a space probe that will land an unmanned rover on the dark side of the moon, has now taken major steps to surpass the U.S. in the ongoing competition among nations to assert strength in the vast reaches of the final frontier.
Perhaps the editorial’s most important point is the dearth of public and political support in the U.S. for our current space program. There was no public outcry when NASA had to end the space shuttle program, and few complained when the U.S. had to then rent space on Russian launch vehicles to get our astronauts to the International Space Station.
This public apathy toward supporting a robust space exploration program, to include a sufficient budget for NASA, could portend the end of U.S. space superiority.
While public excitement about the U.S. space program is waning in most of the country, it is waxing strong in Conimicut, Rhode Island, where a group of residents has found a way to help promote the resurgence of U.S. space exploration.
Most Rhode Islanders probably don’t know where Conimicut is located. Even many within the readership area of the Warwick Beacon and its sister papers – the Cranston Herald and the Johnston Sun Rise – may not be certain where the village is situated. Conimicut is a Warwick village with approximately 3,200 residents living in about 1,200 households. The one-square-mile seaside village’s main attraction, besides its beautiful “downtown” area, is Conimicut Point Lighthouse and the adjacent Conimicut Point Park.
The Conimicut Village Association, is sponsoring a 50th Anniversary Moon Landing Parade that will march through the village on July 20, 2019, exactly fifty years after humans first reached an extra-terrestrial body and Neil Armstrong stepped down from Apollo 11’s lunar landing module, the Eagle, and made his famous statement, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The association knows of no other community in the country that is currently planning a parade to celebrate mankind’s most significant achievement of the 20th century; and one of the man’s greatest accomplishments of all time.
The parade will not only celebrate the astronauts who made man’s first moon landing, it will also celebrate all Americans who worked behind the scenes to support NASA’s space programs, both manned and unmanned, since NASA was founded in 1957.
At the height of the space race in the mid-’60s, NASA enjoyed a budget that equaled 4.4 percent of the federal budget. In the past fifteen years, NASA’s budget has hovered around 0.5 percent of the budget, seemingly an open admission to the world that America is no longer keenly interested in space exploration.
But perhaps Congress has gotten the message at last. NASA’s 2018 budget was increased by $1.6 billion over its 2017 budget, an 8 percent increase to $20.1 billion. Further, the Trump administration is pushing Congress to shift resources so we can land humans on the moon again by 2025.
What all Americans should agree upon is that U.S. leadership in space exploration is essential to our country’s future. It will support our continued dominance in scientific inquiry and will lead to further advances in medicine, engineering, automation, etc. And it will allow us to better protect the communications and early-warning satellites that help defend our country.
Can the American public allow China to overtake the nation that won the space race fifty years ago when we placed mankind’s first footprint on the lunar surface? Emphatically, no!
How can average Americans help push our politician to continue increasing NASA’s budget and provide additional incentives to private space exploration companies? Swamp their congressional representatives with letters and phone calls. Make it known to politicians that we want America to again aggressively push the boundaries of space.
Another way that Rhode Islanders can help is to support the Conimicut 50th Anniversary Moon Landing Parade.
Retired NASA astronaut Sherwood “Woody” Spring, a Rhode Island native, will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal, leading a parade that will consist of moon landing-related floats, bands, militia units, color guards, Apollo-era antique vehicles, etc. It will conclude at American Legion Post 43 on West Shore Road where there will be food, drinks, and music outside, and a craft fair in the Legion’s large meeting room. There will also be videos of the first moon landing and other NASA achievements streaming constantly inside the Legion’s smaller meeting room. Grand Marshal Woody Spring and other dignitaries will speak to the gathered crowd.
The village association needs funding and other support from the public, businesses, politicians and foundations to make the parade a rousing success. Our astronauts and behind-the-scenes heroes deserve nothing less.
For further information go to www.MoonLandingParade.org, like us on Facebook, and donate at GoFundMe.com/conimicut-50th-anniversary-moon-landing-parade.
A Conimicut resident, Lonnie Barham is spearheading the lunar landing parade.