Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Space Shuttle Retirement

In the past week I've received two emails about the retiring of the shuttle. Both had merit, and I submit them as I received them.

 It saddens me to see this come to an end. . I hate to see the space program phasing has been a part of my life since childhood. Men went to the moon in the summer of '69----I married that same summer. The shuttle program has been part of my life since I carried my first students to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center... and watched the big bird being brought into Huntsville for testing before its first launch. Telephone poles on either side of the road had to be removed for its entry. I also was privileged to watch a launch from Cape Canaveral many years ago. The power, the illumination as well as the reverberations were nothing short of unbelievable. What a display of American ingenuity. Thanks NASA , it was quite a show.

I spend a great deal of time contemplating the future and what humans might accomplish if ever we are able to outgrow our infancy and conquer the Earthbound problems of today. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that this will never happen, and we will likely annihilate ourselves right here, I remain an optimist.  Truthfully, I feel we have only scraped the surface of our potential. Despite this focus on what might be, I confess to a bit of nostalgia when I think of the end of the space shuttle era. To those who exist on things that might be, space exploration is an opiate, and the shuttle was the vehicle of choice for space exploration during most of my life, up to this point, the Challenger tragedy one of the indelible images of my childhood. Schools were closed that day due to snow in North Alabama, so I was at home on January 28, 1986, fixated on the televised coverage, and I wasn't alone. Many had been following this event for months because it was special. Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, had been selected to join the crew after a fiercely competitive campaign that pitted her against thousands of other educators for the chance to go into space. When disaster struck, there was disbelief. Many thought no shuttle would ever launch again, but the program rebounded and went on to successfully complete many more missions. The space shuttle was unparalleled at getting us into orbit and safely back home again, and it was inexorably linked to evenings spent gazing at the night sky, fantasizing about the other places that may exist up there. The shuttle has more than earned its place of honor in the history of human space travel, but sadly, the shuttle has reached the limits of its usefulness. The college of what might be says we need to keep pressing forward, and in reality, even if we became the best possible stewards of our home planet, we could not hope to live here forever. Our local star, which currently makes life on Earth possible, will someday, in the grip of its inevitable death throes, burn this world to a cinder. If we are to survive as a species, we must set sail for new horizons long before then. So, we now have to think beyond the orbit of our tiny blue home and its myriad problems and devote our resources to new concepts and experimental technologies that will open up the universe to us in ways that previously existed only in our imagination. Even though I will not likely experience the wonders that await, I see many in store for our descendants as they travel into the true wilderness. They will go to Mars and discover its secrets. They will know what lurks in the subterranean seas of Europa, hidden just beneath its frozen crust. They will sail on the methane lakes of Titan and travel to planets orbiting alien stars. Amazingly, these pioneers will overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to transform each of these bizarre places into a home, and they will remember that the human race survived because of us and the choices we made so long ago, and hopefully, these future humans will spend many of their evenings gazing at the night sky, fantasizing about how life must have been on the lush, verdant fields of Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blogging tips
Blogging tips