LOST MOON: Zheng He (or Cheng Ho)
A panel reviewing NASA's current plans for human space flight will report that there is no realistic way to return to the moon by 2020 -- or even 2028.
Not enough money, they say.
Fine, then. They think it's better to spend our money on socialized medical insurance. Hooo...kay. Elections have consequences.
But let me tell you a story.
When the Ming Dynasty (refounded by the Emperor Yongle) took over China after a period of chaos in the early 1400s, he discovered a source of great potential wealth: a huge swath of land that had been set aside as a hunting preserve for the old dynasty.
The Mings chose to sell the land to the peasants in small lots. This generated a huge surplus of money.
After some debate, the Mings decided to spend the cash on .... exploration ships. They chose a remarkable individual, Zheng He (also known as Cheng Ho), famously a eunuch, to command the ships.
This account (from Wikipedia, thank God for their free-use rule!) sums up his career very well.
Zheng He's first voyage consisted of a fleet of around 300 ships (other sources say 200) holding almost 28,000 crewmen. These were probably mainly large six-masted ships....Zheng He's fleets visited Arabia, East Africa, India, Indonesia and Thailand (at the time called Siam), dispensing and receiving goods along the way. Zheng He presented gifts of gold, silver, porcelain and silk; in return, China received such novelties as ostriches, zebras, camels, ivory and giraffes.
Zheng He ... ruthlessly suppressed pirates who had long plagued Chinese and southeast Asian waters. He also intervened in a civil disturbance in order to establish his authority in Ceylon, and he made displays of military force when local officials threatened his fleet in Arabia and East Africa. From his fourth voyage, he brought envoys from thirty states who traveled to China and paid their respects at the Ming court.
In 1424 [his primary sponsor] the Emperor Yongle died. His successor, Emperor Hongxi (reigned 1424–1425), decided to curb [Zheng He's] influence at court. Zheng He made one more voyage under Emperor Xuande (reigned 1426–1435), but after that Chinese treasure ship fleets ended. Zheng He died during the treasure fleet's last voyage. Although he has a tomb in China, it is empty: he was, like many great admirals, buried at sea.
Zheng He, on his seven voyages [1405-1433], successfully relocated large numbers of Chinese Muslims to the nascent Malacca, which became a large international trade center.
What is important about this story is that after Zheng He died and the fleet returned, the Chinese abandoned further naval exploration. Had they tried to travel due east, they likely would have discovered America through the back door--and America would be half Chinese today. As it was, the Ming Dynasty turned inward, abandoned naval exploration... and became a very sad second-best to the Europeans, who started to explore the seas just a few years after China abandoned them. As a result, China is still not even competitive with the European Union, much less ourselves.
We have the choice, and the chance, not to repeat their mistake.
I'm confident that Obammunism and all its pomps and works will be undone and in four years the grown ups will be back in charge. All this decision means is that the landing has been delayed by four years.
I ask you to remember the last line from the great movie Apollo 13 (known in this household as 'Daddy's Movie'):
"When are we going back? And who will it be?"