Op-ed column: Visiting Mars just one great dream for future

The concept of time and predicting the future of events yet to come is an intriguing idea.

The headline in the Daily Gazette on April 16 was intriguing: “Obama says he will see man go to Mars.”

The article went on to say that the president expects to see a manned landing on an asteroid by 2025 and a Mars expedition beginning with a manned orbit sometime in the 2030s. I found this news interesting, and it has caused some controversy with NASA and many of the astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

I haven’t followed the space program closely enough to have an opinion on the worth of this idea, but I do know that a lot of money has already been spent on President Bush’s plan to return a man to the moon. President Obama effectively killed that plan with his new goals, and, by doing so, scrapped NASA plans, research and technological investments already made in pursuit of another moon landing.

Since the technology doesn’t yet exist to fulfill the new Obama space policy, it will take some heavy investment of time, money and talent to bring it to fruition. One wonders if future presidents will continue his policy of a Mars landing or will plans change once again, nullifying all investment made during the Obama years.

Between now and 2035 we could have as many as six presidents or as few as three, with each bringing different ideas of space exploration, nullifying huge investments and starting over with more huge investments. Granted, this happens with a lot of presidential programs from term to term, but not on the monetary scale that space programs demand.

Concepts of time

The article also was intriguing on a very different level: the concept of time and predicting the future of events yet to come. For example, because of our age difference, I probably won’t live to see a Mars landing, while President Obama can say with confidence that he will. I began to wonder what else I might miss, wishing that some events will come to pass during my lifetime, while hoping that some events won’t.

It reminded me of a time when I was studying in India under a Fulbright grant. One of our professors, Dr. Maghal, made the prediction that India and Pakistan would someday reunite. I looked at him in disbelief and he quickly added the caveat that “it might take 500 years, but it will happen.”

It taught me that the Indian concept of time is not so much linear like ours, but cyclical, with events and even lives repeating themselves with no clear end point. India and Pakistan were once one, and they would be one again. And it wasn’t necessary that it happen in Dr. Maghal’s lifetime, as long as he could have the comforting belief — no, assurance — that they would be one nation once again.

As a student of history I also like looking into the future, and, unlike Dr. Maghal, I want to witness the events that are important to me and not just believe they will come to pass.

Perhaps by now you too are thinking about what you would like to see during your lifetime. The list comes fast if you let your imagination and curiosity loose. Even faster comes the list of things you hope you never witness.

Unwanted headlines

Following, then, is a short list of some headlines I hope not to see:

1. “Schenectady taxes to go up again.”

Oops, too late for that one, as it happens every year. And now there is talk of paying for water. Actually, I’m not opposed to metered water; we’re one of the few municipalities that doesn’t meter water. But I am concerned that it will have an adverse effect on larger families as well as children who are already living near the poverty level. What I certainly don’t want to see is the establishment of a water authority. Once that occurs, the water rates will increase every year in order to support the bureaucracy that it creates. Paying for water usage is one thing, but paying to have it administered by a board is quite another and should be avoided at all costs.

2. “Racing at Saratoga canceled for season.”

New York state and NYRA have got to get on the same page, and quit this nonsense of Saratoga losing the summer season of horse racing. That’s as bad as “Americade leaves Lake George due to rising demand of fees to hold motorcycle rally.” Both are vital to the cities in which they are held, and canceling either would be foolish, short-sighted and perhaps fatal to the economies of both cities.

3. “Tea Party candidate Sarah Palin predicted to win presidential election. Promises to scuttle Obama’s health care policy.”

That’s as scary as the group in Oklahoma looking for a way to set up a private state militia not controlled by the state government. Does Oklahoma have such a short memory, forgetting the bloody bombing of the Murrah Federal building in 1995? I don’t think so, and I doubt it will happen legally. Interestingly, the perpetrators, McVeigh and Nichols, were trying to set up a private militia themselves.

Positive notes

And now, a short list of some headlines I do hope to see:

1. “Iraq government stable, U.S. president to withdraw troops.”

I think this one is likely and could certainly happen during President Obama’s term, although I’m not completely sure of the word “stable” in the headline.

Quite a bit less likely, but still on my list of headlines I’d like to see is: “Taliban defeated, U.S. to quit Afghanistan.” No country has had any success stabilizing Afghanistan and I fear we will be stuck in that quagmire for a long time to come.

2. “New York state Legislature passes budget on time.”

We actually saw this in 2005. It hadn’t happened in 21 years before then, and who knows when it will happen again. It’s a disgrace and is having a ripple effect throughout the state with budgets of towns, cities and school districts in jeopardy until the state can get its own budget in place. Layoffs and the disruption of services are inevitable, but at least let the municipalities and school districts know exactly what they are dealing with so they can prepare. It’s almost enough to make one join the Tea Partiers!

3. “Lions win Super Bowl, defeat Pittsburgh 24 – 3.”

Well, everyone has the right to dream don’t they? In the words of Dr. Maghal, it will happen; I just hope it won’t take 500 years.

Anthony Frank lives in Schenectady and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.

Categories: Opinion

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