Whenever there’s a budget crunch, space programs are usually the first to suffer. After all, their benefits (aside from bolstering national pride) are far from immediate, and rocket scientists usually make for poor lobbyists. So as Depression v2.0 kicks into ever higher gear, it seems certain that space exploration will suffer.
But not in Ecuador! The South American nation recently launched its first space program, with an eye toward eventually landing Cmdr. Ronnie Nader on the Moon. Nader developed his astronaut chops in Russia, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. According to his official bio, he also “designed Latin America’s first internet-to-fax and internet-to-beeper interfaces.”
Ecuador’s insistence on sending men into space is, to be frank, a bit baffling. What’s the upside for the country, aside from bragging rights? One possibility is that it’s part of a strategy to push Ecuador as a possible spaceport—the nation’s location would seem to be favorable for launching orbital missions. Maybe President Rafael Correa is a wee bit spending happy, after growing accustomed to a few solid years of major oil loot. Or maybe he just wants to show Uncle Sam who’s boss.