Local stargazers hopeful after Trump pledges to return to space

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In his State of the Union address this week, President Donald Trump gave space exploration enthusiasts an unexpected boost.

After recognizing famed Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the crowd, the president pledged America would aim to restore its once proud space program.

“This year, American astronauts will return to space on American rockets,” Trump said Tuesday night.

For some, the president’s words were reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy’s stirring speech from 1962 about America’s then-new and ambitious space program.

Joe Wright at the Astronomical Society of Kansas City is encouraged but not quite ready to celebrate just yet.

“I certainly hope so,” Wright said. “At this point, my personal opinion, right now, it’s a speech.”

It’s been a humbling span of recent years for America’s once-proud space program. The last rocket to be launched into space from American soil happened in 2011. Since that time, our astronauts have been hitching a ride into the heavens on Russian rockets.

“It’s just a couple of pennies per person, in the United States, that funds NASA,” Wright said. “It’s very minuscule compared to what they had in the past.”

Even so, NASA has set a goal to launch an unmanned SpaceX rocket from American soil in March. If that’s successful, a crew of astronauts will lift off, from the United States, for the International Space Station. Marking the first American launch in eight years.

Wright hopes the current momentum will inspire some measure of the passion and American pride that accompanied the Apollo program from a previous generation.

“Who hasn’t looked up at the night sky and dreamed about what’s out there? Or going there? Everybody has,” Wright said.

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