We need rockets to carry astronauts

Space exploration is dangerous. No amount of technological advances and expensive safeguards changes the fact that the brave women and men who travel beyond the atmosphere have agreed to be strapped to the tops of massive amounts of explosives.

We were reminded of the hazards this past week, when a rocket intended to carry an American and a Russian out to the International Space Station failed shortly after launch. Less than two minutes into the flight, originating from Russia’s Baikonur space complex, a booster rocket failed.

American Nick Hague and Russian Alexei Ovchinin were in a capsule that jettisoned from the rocket. It landed miles away from Baikonur. Hague and Ovchinin are safe.

Russian officials have said all manned rocket launches have been suspended until the cause of this week’s failure can be determined and corrected. That means no flights by either Russians or Americans.

After decades of successes — and yes, some tragedies — in space exploration, this country’s freestanding launch and recovery program was suspended during the administration of former President Barack Obama. Now, if NASA wants to send a human being into space, we have to ask Moscow’s permission.

Though some other countries and a few private enterprises have their own space programs, the fact remains that the United States has been left out — voluntarily.

President Donald Trump has vowed to correct that. NASA is working on new rockets to carry our own astronauts. The sooner they can be perfected, the better.

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