Friday, July 8, 2011

This Moment in History: The Final Space Shuttle Mission

The Atlantis lifts off for the final time

My heart breaks a little knowing that its the end of the Space Shuttle era. I'd be simply nostalgic if it meant that in 2012 the X-39 or a similar program were geared up to take the place of the Shuttle Program. But, instead, for the foreseeable future we'll be taking rides on Russian rockets to visit our own space station, and remaining earthbound after a half-century of touching the cosmos, even if it was only ever a glancing touch.

We looked into the face of limitless possibility as a nation, and we blinked.

In the years to come, they'll say it was a fool's errand, and a waste of resources. I'll be an old man, and the highest aspiration for kids will have long ago quit being being "Astronaut", which will sound antiquated and sad, almost how we smirk knowingly when you imagine being referred to as a "First Mate" on a ship.

And when we're old enough, or when we're gone, they'll say it never happened (just you wait). They'll say they never had the technology, that the will of a nation to spend the resources and capitol necessary just a few decades after the Wright Brothers flew their first place and the first rockets criss-crossed the skies... it was impossible. It'll be called illogical, fantastic and a hoax, written off like the sun-chariots in carvings in Egypt. And when that's said often enough, it'll be true.

Perhaps we went to fast, too soon.  Perhaps the kids I grew up with who squirmed their way through math and science took it for granted when we got to start making the rules, and maybe we were just a little disillusioned that they'd never asked us to suit up and go.  Like everything else, maybe we thought it would always be there.

As always, all we can do is hope that the tide will turn, and one day (perhaps when we're more deserving) we'll be ready, honestly and for real this time.

Until then, I thank the scientists, engineers, visionaries, and brave women and men who suited up and saw the Earth for us, and who went as close to the stars and further and faster than any of us.

The New York Times
AP Story at The Austin American Statesman


horus kemwer said...

The fact that we're not on track for space colonization to get seriously underway before I'm an old man is profoundly depressing.

Matt A. said...

I'm proud to say that I helped (in a tiny way) get that thing into orbit. However, we still have the ISS (again, I'm proud to say that some of the work I did on its telemetry is still running, if my friends there are to be believed), so don't discount the space program yet. Even if it's not the good ol' U.S. of A at the wheel, there's still plenty of people wanting to get into space.