Tuesday, July 19, 2011

End Of An Era

It is with deep sadness that I take note of this:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. A space shuttle left the International Space Station for the very last time Tuesday, heading home to end the 30-year run of a vessel that kept U.S. astronauts flying to and from orbit longer than any other rocketship.

Atlantis slipped away after performing a partial lap around the space station. Ten pairs of eyes pressed against the windows, four in the shuttle and six in the station.

All that remains of NASA's final shuttle voyage is the touchdown, targeted for the pre-dawn hours of Thursday back home in Florida.

The last NASA manned mission, possibly ever. Since my childhood, with the launch of Alan Shepard, American men & women have been in space or preparing to go. Now, no, at least sponsored by the government.
Many would point out that space has become a boondoggle of cost overruns and incremental returns for massive investments.
Perhaps that's true. It's also true of war, unless you want to fight a war for survival or to acquire an empire, none of which is exactly a concern right now, yet here we are in three different theatres, bankrupting the nation and for what? Oil?
The promise the space program held for me as a child is the same promise it holds today: enormous knowledge, the most precious, priceless thing man has invented. 
Think of what has come out of the space program: from TANG to transistor radios to computers to GPS to the Internet, all of these come from the space program. Technologies unheard of prior to figuring out how to protect a man in space, from dry suits developed out of space suits to the metal ends of thermometers that more efficiently transfer body heat for more accurate readings. Hell, baby foods have become better because of trying to work out how to feed an astronaut. MRIs, folding walkers, titanium eyeglass frames, pacemakers, all these can trace their roots to figuring out how to help an astronaut in space.
The many triumphs and too many tragedies of the space program have led up to the world we have now, and that program has had a far greater impact on your life than anything, ANYTHING, else of the past fifty years.
We should go back to space. We NEED to go back to space. There are too many problems down here that require us to find solutions out there.