The final Space Shuttle launch took place yesterday and it broke my heart. Billions of dollars spent futilely in Iraq, but we abandon the Space Program and Russia, China, India, and private corporations assume the reins.
I grew up watching the U.S. become the world leader in Space. Gemini, Mercury, Apollo, the Shuttle Program. Watching the grainy black-and-white image downstairs in the living room as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon in 1968. Everything seemed possible then.
I also remember the tragedies, and exactly where I was when each of them happened; Grissom, Chaffee, and White dying on the pad during a test of Apollo 1. The awful day when Challenger blew up, Columbia disintegrating on re-entry.
But as John Kennedy said at Rice University in 1962: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” He may have been talking specifically about the moon, but his words sum up the entire space program, and why the United States took the lead in Space Exploration.
How is it that a mere half-century later we can abandon this great vision? To sacrifice the quest for space on the alter of budgetary concern?