Posts Tagged ‘america’

Saying Goodbye: The Space-Age

July 18, 2011

These sorts of entries are hard to start. So I usually just give up, and start them with a sort of apathetic clumsiness. Once I get going, it’s sort of hard to stop talking about issues that hit closer to home than normal. I will try not to turn this into a biased rant, but as a Floridian, American, Science-lover and Space enthusiast, I knew I had to write something about the ending of the NASA Space Travel program. It’s therapeutic, at the very least. When I first heard from a friend while out at a club one night, that they were considering cutting the funding for the Space program – I dismissed it entirely because it just seemed so crazy to me. I went home and did some research and my heart sank into my stomach. It was true – they didn’t have the funding to continue the program anymore, and my very first thought was “Oh, so we have the money to fund a fake war, cost people their lives needlessly,  but something as entirely American as the Space Program, something that incites hope and awe, we can just pull the plug and walk away from?” It’s no big surprise that this nation doesn’t have its priorities competitively straight, but this just took me entirely by surprise. It kills me to think that when I was a child, I wanted to be an Astronaut – among other things, and that now kids can no longer say that. It’s just become an archaic profession. That just hasn’t sunk in yet, really. The fact that no other Americans will go into space in the foreseeable future honestly disturbs me. We are Earthbound. Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times said it best: “The programs end carries the force of a cruel metaphor, coming at a time where limits are all we talk about – we have no stars in our eyes.”.

It feels as if Americas sense of discovery is over.

Cruel metaphor, indeed.

The problem is that acceptable reasons alone — national security, economic benefit, scientific discovery —  don’t fully explain why we should launch ourselves into space. Rather, the true justification for space exploration is that such enterprises speak abundantly to our sense of human curiosity, of wonder and awe, and because they lift up human hearts everywhere when we do them.

A melancholy message scribbled on the board by a now ex-astronaut in their meeting room.

I can only hope that this break will allow bigger and better things to come to fruition, although I can’t say I’m crossing any fingers or holding my breath. This whole decision to me has me so completely faithless in humanity. Without a sense of wonder or adventure, something for people to look up or believe in, we wont be able to get by day-by-day. I firmly believe in that. I don’t want to look up at the sky every night, and think to myself “Remember that time we put men on the moon? Those were the good ole’ days.” No. I want to look up, and know that we are going to do more, that there is so much to know outside of what Telescopes can show us. Space may be the “Final Frontier” – but not exploring it at all is way to “final” for me. Every time I see a Florida state quarter, with the Space ship emblazoned on the back, it kills me to know that is no longer a part of our adventure as a state and nation. I can’t imagine something that was so tangible, becoming literal science-fiction. How have we got so far off course.

A father and son at the first and last shuttle launch.

I cant help but feel that we are taking steps backwards with decisions like funding these bullshit wars, cutting iconic and inspiring programs, and caring less about people and trying to pass everything off as a sort of utilitarianism. I could complain all the time, move to a different country, or give up all hope – but I wont do any of that. I wont let the decisions of idiots in power compromise my sense of adventure and discovery. Ever. As far as I’m concerned, I still want to be an Astronaut when I grow up.