Don’t Be a Nixon Next Year

Circumstances aside, it’s time to weigh the proposals for your future

How about visiting Mars? Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

Richard Nixon had two radically different proposals for space exploration on his desk back in the early seventies. He took the project that gave us the space shuttle. As it turns out, that was another small step for humanity instead of one giant leap. He played a safe game.

The man who’s proposal ended up in the trash, by the way, resigned from NASA and then died of cancer shortly after that. That man was Wernher von Braun, a German/American scientist and engineer who built the rocket that took Apollo to the moon. His proposal was a manned mission to Mars.

With von Braun’s proposal, who, by the way, was a former SS major in Hitler’s army, some believe we’d already be colonizing Mars. Mars! Just think about it.

​ Von Braun developed the infamous V2 rockets — the long-range ones that then became the ICBMs of today (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads). He also wrote Das Marsprojekt (The Mars Project), a complete guide to sending multiple human-crewed spacecraft to Mars. So, we’ve had a fanciful engineering blueprint for a Mars trip for over 50 years. At least it inspired a generation of sci-fi writers.

Nixon got spooked after Apollo 13’s crew nearly perished, and military support for the cheaper, small, reusable space shuttle was stronger. Mars exploration was shelved and ended up in a dusty drawer until von Braun returned in the form of Elon Musk.

We are now firmly back on the Mars track (I use the term “firmly” loosely here).

Ironically, one of Musk’s first major achievements is a reusable rocket. This type of rocket is essential for a mission to Mars — scientists have us believe — but it’s only a cog in the gargantuan infrastructure required for a crewed mission to colonize the red planet. (Grab the reusable SpaceX Falcon for just $62 million with the small change you have lying around ).

Musk’s SpaceX rockets take off and land in Florida, where I’ve watched them take off. Space exploration and visionaries are usually on my mind this of year, a time of year to reimagine our careers, health, and our relationships as we head into the next.

Don’t get nixed

Which two proposals are you staring at?

What choice do you need to make in your life?

Take a minute to think about that.

Now, are you going to take the safe, calculated risk and play small or jump at the proposal for a future of adventure, riddled with seemingly insurmountable complexities? I’ve made my choice. Now, you make yours. Oh, and don’t be Nixon.

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I muse on being a journalist, author and on life. Husband. Father of two beautiful girls. Tennis & CrossFit.