My son just earned his Space Exploration Merit Badge in Boy Scouts.

So, we were very interested to learn about plans to rope-an-asteroid for closer study:

The plan would speed up by four years the existing mission to land astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth, Sen. Bill Nelson said.

The robotic ship would capture the 500-ton, 25-foot (450 metric-ton, 7.6-meter) asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, now being developed, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press.

There was a dramatic asteroid strike in Russia recently. So, as Professor Glenn Reynolds notes, now is not too soon to figure out how do deal with “killer asteroids”.

Interestingly, Reynolds also featured “killer asteroid profits” on an Instavision Video. Reynolds talked to Chris Lewicki, President of Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company. So this project could well be an innovative next step in extra-terrestrial resource development.

Lewicki remarked that asteroid-roping could really inspire public interest in space exploration and its technologies. One of my friends is Sean Richards, who is a tech-savvy craftsman. On a Facebook entry I caught, he offered a less positive take on the news.

I watched 2010 this morning. The movie about Arthur C Clarke’s “2010” written in 1968, a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

When I read these books in the late ’60s early ’70s, we were still landing on the moon. Talk was about about landing on Mars by the early ’80s. Perhaps a Mars expedition launched from a Moon base!

There was supposed to be a Mars Colony by the late ’80s, then manned missions to the outer planets. Kids I went to high school with talked with genuine excitement about not needing to be a military pilot to get into space, and about living and working in space.

That was 40 years ago!

And now look at us… We have a leader who’s all excited about capturing an asteroid and examining it in moon orbit in 10 years from now…

…Every President since Nixon (with the exception of perhaps Reagan) has used the excuse of budget needs and political agendas to slow our manned space exploration programs, to shift focus, to cut one program for getting into space in favor of a supposedly better one, each time delaying, and downsizing, and putting off manned exploration for yet another decade.. or two.

As a species we need to get off this very vulnerable space rock. This nation needs to start leading the way again.

We languish. We no longer dream. Kids no longer see the possibility of living on the Moon or Mars or of expeditions to the outer moons and planets.

Richards makes a good point, especially as NASA policy seems more directed at political correctness than space exploration. This image of Los Angeles in 2013, painted 25 years ago, offers a perspective on this subject:

LA2013

And while I don’t live in LA myself, I think Legal Insurrection readers who do will confirm the city of today doesn’t quite live up to its image of the future. We need to get back to appreciating that it is OK to want a stellar future…and then work for it without excessive government intrusion.