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Space Travel Is So Yesterday

Hey, get this...I want to talk about space travel.

I was drawn to the topic by this week’s story of China sending up their first astronaut. I was shocked that it took the Chinese this long. How could a nation that prides itself on being on the cutting edge of quelling independent thought have taken this long to launch a man into space?

It made me think about our Space Program and how awe-struck we all were at the beginning and why we should now discontinue it for a while. Sure, it really mattered at one time when we had to put the Soviet Union in its place. But the USSR has since disintegrated like (Boris) Yeltsin's (search) liver and the hard truth is that the Space Program is now just a bunch of guys from the A.V. team wearing a Kon-Tiki raft of Bic pens in their shirt pockets and renaming Martian rocks Snagglepuss (search).

Instead of coaxing a Battle-Bot off-road on the Red Planet (search) why don’t we take NASA’s budget and rededicate it to a public works project and build a comprehensive system of bullet trains right here on terra firma? Because, quite frankly, the current odds of getting to Saturn are a whole lot better than those of going from L.A. to Fresno on Amtrak.

We could advance the frontiers of technology by diverting NASA funds into an all-robotic Army because we have a vast, untapped fighting force in this country that should be unleashed: the Nintendo Brigade. I’ve got a 13-year-old who -- if you give him a Barcalounger, a large bag of Doritos and a toggle switch -- will fly an unmanned drone right up Hussein’s right nostril and he’ll never even realize it until the bomb goes off.

Hey, let’s keep NASA around to fight off asteroids on a collision course with Earth and that’s it. Give any and all funding to the guys who invented the video game Galaga and make sure they ray gun any death boulders heading our way into smithereens.

Besides, space travel is one of those fields where the greatest progress won’t necessarily be incremental. Let’s dry dock the shuttle and just wait a few decades and I’m sure somewhere down the line a new braniac kid, the next Einstein, will just scribble something on a legal pad one day and say, “Here Granddad, here’s how to get to Mars using only a shop-vac, a Slinky and a Mennen Speed Stick.”

Got that?