Tortoise and hare — in space

Foreign agencies are inching closer to NASA’s prestige as the U.S. program lags behind.

Jared Rogers-Martin

In a fiery streak, a hunk of metal scorched across the sky and landed in Kazakhstan to shatter a world record. 
 
Upon touching the Earth’s soil, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka had surpassed another Russian for the longest amount of time a human has spent in space. He had spent a total of 879 days peering out over the galactic black. 
 
The great space race fizzled out after the Cold War, but now Russia and other countries are deepening budgets and adding competitive space programs — albeit with budgets inferior to NASA’s — while the United States keeps its manned missions grounded without a useable spacecraft.
 
Competition in space is a good thing for the scientific world. Space is one of the only places where scientific collaboration replaces diplomatic quarrels. For example, this summer NASA paid the Russian Federal Space Agency nearly $500 million to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, despite sanctions stemming from the Ukraine crisis. However, for nearly half a century, the U.S. has held the patriotic torch of being the world’s leading space explorer.
While foreign agencies continue to break records and venture into unknown parts of the final frontier, the U.S. should not remain in limbo, without even a properly funded shuttle program. Every day we sit grounded on terrestrial soil, we lose a part of our national identity to our apathy toward space travel and our perceived superiority over other
countries.
 
In a worst-case scenario, we’ll soon replace stories of the great race between the tortoise and the hare with a space story titled, “The Eagle and Bear.”