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Going to moon a spacey plan

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C.:

The nation is drowning in debt while trying to simultaneously fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and resurrect the hurricane-ravaged Gulf states. ... So, here's an idea: Why not spend billions to send humans back to the moon?

With great fanfare, NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin spelled out a $104 billion plan to put Americans on the moon by 2018.

The primary question, however, is not whether NASA can accomplish this feat but rather why it would want to.

Haven't we already been to the moon? In fact, didn't we go there six times, not counting the Apollo 13 flight that came close? And didn't we find that the moon consists largely of rocks, dust and craters?

NASA looks increasingly like an agency that is desperately trying to justify its existence. The last shuttle flight, gaudily advertised as our ''return to space,'' turned out to be a white-knuckle journey requiring a cobbled-together, in-space repair job. Because of flying insulation - again - NASA couldn't be certain until nearly the last minute that the shuttle wouldn't blow up during re-entry.

Now, while quietly retiring the shuttle program, NASA seeks to replace it with a loony plan to return to the moon. If it can find a way to get there on gossamer wings, OK, but not if it's going to cost the nation billions of dollars that would be better spent on more unmanned space exploration.

Pope Benedict deserves criticism if he doesn't discuss priest sex scandal

Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio:

News stories about a document to be released by the Vatican in the next several weeks indicate that Rome will reaffirm the Catholic Church's belief that homosexuals should not be priests.

It would be the height of hypocrisy for Pope Benedict XVI to lend his important voice to the issue of homosexuality but remain silent about the hundreds of cases of child abuse by priests in the United States.

Pope Benedict must not allow this injustice to prevail. If he only focuses on the issue of keeping homosexuals from becoming priests and says nothing about the child-abuse crisis in the American church, he will be opening himself up to justified criticism from the Catholic faithful and those outside the faith.