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Losing the 'Space Race'

David Epps's picture

A few years ago, our church men’s softball team won the league title and went 9-0 on the season. The schedule actually called for a 10-game season, but the toughest team in the league had a mission trip planned, and we mutually called off that game at their request. They finished 8-1. Two other teams failed to field a full team on the night of our games with them and so they forfeited.

It is entirely possible that, had the three teams showed up to play, we could have lost one or all three games and the title might have gone to another team. When you fail to play, someone else wins.

That’s how I felt at the final launch of the space shuttle. For over four decades, we were in a winning battle against the Soviet Union for the domination of space. While we were not the first in space, we played catch-up at a furious pace and won the race to the moon and, by all standards of measure, won the space race. Until now.

Now, we have left the field. We have no shuttle program and, as far as I can tell, no concrete plans for the future. If we wish to put an astronaut on the space station it will cost us $50 million payable to the Russians — or whatever they decide to charge. We have forfeited the game.

Whatever excuses we wish to make, whatever reasons we have, the fact is that someone else will control space now. For the moment, it appears that it will be our former enemy and alleged friend, Russia, the remainder of what was once the Soviet Union. Perhaps later it will be China or France or India or ... Iran. Yes, Iran. It could happen. The unusual and unthinkable happens when one forfeits the game.

When we first fielded a softball team, everyone loved to play us. Often the “mercy rule” would be invoked when we fell so far behind it was impossible to win. As the seasons passed, however, our team improved greatly and became competitive. They won a lot of games and turned each season into a winning season.

No one, however, expected us to win the title the year we won it, least of all the team that asked us to call off the game because of their mission trip. But, as I said, the unthinkable happens.

Two teams failed to show up ready to play so we logged those as wins. A team that the toughest team in the league should have beaten scored a victory over them. At the end of the season, we were 9-0 and they were 8-1.

Their coach called our coach and asked to play the game that they had asked to be called off. Our coach called me and asked what to do. I said, “No way.”

Now some probably thought I wasn’t being a good sport. But, to my way of thinking, it was a no-win situation for us. We were the league champs. If we won, we were still champs and undefeated. But if they won, our records would be tied at 9-1 but they would be the champs.

But that wasn’t the dominant thought. The dominant thought was, “If you fail to show or if you bow out, someone else wins.” It that way in sports and it is that way in life. Sometimes it is too late to have a “do over.” You should play while you have the opportunity.

So, if someday a hostile Islamic, Communist, or totalitarian nation controls space and poses the threat of annihilation to all free people, including us, the reason will be: We walked away and left the field of battle. In doing so, someone else won.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]


I think you are a balanced budget dude, aren't you? Do you know what it will cost to go to Mars now? We have been to the Moon!

You also are behind on your reading I think. In about 10-12 years we will land a robot on an asteroid near Mars. Following that in about 5-6 years we will go there with people.
From the asteroid we can leave for Mars with supplies at the asteroid.

Now, here is the part you will like; the USA will do enough research to provide what we want to PRIVATE INDUSTRY for them to run and own!

Of course those contracts will have a clause that they will revert back to the USA in case of defense needs! Similar to some current airports and Interstates.

Although we are turning out some stupidos now from our schools, we still have a few left who are capable.

From a "rocket scientist's" point of view, the biggest issue is giving up the only US system rated to place people into orbit before we have a new system in place. The current adminstration's policy is to promote commercial providers for low earth orbit access, which I support, but those systems are just now entering testing.

Right now the only way to get people and supplies to the International Space Station is via the Russian A-2 launch vehicle first used in 1963 and the Soyuz capsule which dates back to 1967 - albeit with updates. There are several issues with dependence with one system to support the Space Station, not least of which is what happens if that system has a failure and we must ground it for a period of time.

This is exactly what happened this week with the failure of of a Russian A-2 booster launching a Progress supply vehicle to the station. Now the A-2 is grounded until the problem is found which means that we can't get people or supplies to the Space Station for an indeterminate time. NASA today stated that they might be forced to abandon the station for a period of time until resupply flights could resume.

This reminds me of a good rule of tumb I learned years ago; "don't give up a job until you have another." The same is true for spaceflight; don't give up a functional human rated launch system until you have a new one operational. The failure of Obama, and Bush before him, is giving up the proven Shuttle system before the new commercial human launch systems are ready. Now we put at risk all the billions of dollars of investments in the International Space Station.

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