Dinesh D’Souza, the author of the controversial book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”, posits an interesting explanation for President Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program that would have returned astronauts to the Moon.
“Obama seems determined to divert NASA from being a symbol of American greatness into a more modest public relations operation that builds ties with Muslims and other peoples. For those who cherish America’s leadership role in space, it is chilling to realize that America’s own president seeks to bring that role to an end.”
D’Souza postulates that President Obama’s main modus operandi is that of a third-world anti-colonialist, someone who believes that the West, especially the United States, has oppressed the rest of the world by exploiting its resources and its people. Obama himself seems to have buttressed that observation by suggesting that the United States has “shown arrogance” and by denigrating the idea of American exceptionalism.
The American space program has been envisioned since the early days of Apollo as a kind of recreation of the exploration and the settlement of the Americas out in the heavens. Astronauts, like the men of Apollo, would go forth to explore the Moon and Mars. Settlers would follow to build colonies and build new lives, just as their ancestors did in the American West. In “Selling Outer Space”, James Lee Kauffman suggests that this analogy was created to sell the Apollo program in the early 1960s.
Robert Zubrin, a space writer and advocate author of “The Case for Mars,” has taken up this meme, suggesting that Mars is the new American West and even going so far as to say that settling the Red Planet is humanity’s “manifest destiny.”
Unfortunately, the narrative about the great Western expansion has somewhat changed since the early 1960s. From the heroic story told in the film “How the West Was Won,” in which brave pioneers suffered and toiled to create the country we know as America, the narrative has instead transformed into another film, “Dances with Wolves,” which tells the story in a far darker light. In the latter film, the peopling of the American West is seen as an atrocity committed against the hunter-gatherer American Indians. Nothing is said about the building of a new civilization; the only story is the despoliation of the original inhabitants of America.
So when Zubrin talks about “manifest destiny” or when others talk about settlements on the Moon and Mars, a red flag is waved in front of people like Barack Obama. In Obama’s mind, the atrocities visited on the American Indian and on the indigenous peoples of the Third World are proposed to be repeated beyond the Earth.
Never mind that there are no natives on the Moon or Mars. It is the principle of the thing. All that talk of colonies, helium 3 mines, and a new branch of civilization on Mars is anathema to people like Obama.
Hence, Obama canceled Constellation, which might have led to settlements on the Moon and a base for further expansion throughout the Solar System. George W. Bush’s brave new space program is replaced instead by government subsidies to commercial space firms to create a taxi service to low Earth orbit and a vaguely defined plan to explore asteroids. The latter is set so far in the future that it may or may not happen; it serves as a bright, shiny bauble to divert attention from the end, yet again, of another dream of a space future.
Sources: The Roots of Obama’s Rage, Dinesh D’Souza, Regnery Press, 2010
Is Obama trying to ‘decolonize’ space?, Dinesh D/Souza, Christian Science Monitor, October 13th, 2010
Selling Outer Space: Kennedy, the Media, and Funding for Project Apollo, 1961-1963, James Kaufman University Alabama Press, 2009
The Case for Mars, Robert Zubrin, Free Press, 1997