You hear the number “ten” announced over the speakers as the crowd anxiously awaits the spectacle that is to come. The entire nation shakes with anticipation as the countdown continues through “seven” to “six” to “five.” Households across the the world watch the engines warm up and the boosters billow with smoke as the launch commences. There are moments of breathless anxiety as the rocket assembly ascends into the heavens – defying the grasp of worldly gravity and worldly problems.
Unfortunately for America (and most of the world), there have not been a moments such as this since the glory days of NASA and the Apollo program. There are still flights happening in space with regularity. These flights, however, do not come from this country. In order for American astronauts to gain access to the International Space Station, which is primarily an American investment, they have to hitch a ride with Russian equipment.
Of course, I have no problem with an international effort in the arena of space. Internationalization of the space program is the future of the greater space program for humanity. What I have a problem with is the lack of concern by the American people and the American government for an effective American space program.
After all, what do we have today? There are no countdowns or launches. The space shuttles are retired. NASA is no longer regarded with wonder and respect, but is instead regarded with skepticism and derision. The world has changed.
To put it bluntly, there is no push for a manned space program in this country because there is no competitive reason for America to go outward. The space race is finished! We beat the Russians! What could be left for us to do? It is short-sighted nonsense.
There should not have to be a multinational race to a stellar object for the people of America to embrace an active manned space program. There is, without equivocation, no more important goal for humanity than the goal of manned space exploration.
It is a scientific fact that Earth has an expiration date. Barring any catastrophic natural disasters through bolide impacts or particularly nasty earthquakes, Earth’s existence will end with the expansion of the sun during its years of twilight (no pun intended). Though the moment of the sun’s death is still several billion years away, it is no less of a certainty because of the time periods that are involved.
Everybody knows this fact. NASA knows this fact. The government of America knows this fact. We ignore it, however, in an effort to leave it as a problem for future generations. Although this case can be made, as there are real problems on land that humanity must attend to, it does not mean that the space program should be altogether abandoned.
Whatever happened to progress for the sake of progress? Humanity needs a new frontier. Space, as we all know, is the “final” frontier of experience because of its immensity. The energies that are currently focused upon war and destruction would be better served in a war against the elements – not a war against people.
An active space program that propels humanity to unforeseen heights is a symbol of hope for all in the world who feel restrained and depressed by the minutiae of terrestrial life. Watch Apollo 13 if you doubt this statement. I defy you to watch that film and not feel warm fuzzies as Tom Hanks delivers a career-best performance.
Strive to hope. Seek to do better. We have the technology and the ability to carve a future into the stars. We simply do not have the desire.
Worldly concerns will always be present. The economy is vitally important for the success of any program that America takes a part in. Though it is not in the best shape that it has even been in, it is far from being in a state that would prevent a healthy funding for NASA. Unfortunately, NASA does not have the funding it needs to be a world leader. Space apathy is at an all-time high.
We can do better. If you wish for a change in the way in which these programs are funded, let your representatives know. Make some noise. Watch science fiction movies in the theaters (yes, this is helpful … I promise).
We must ensure that humanity’s legacy to Earth is not one of terror and ecological rape. The solution is attainable, the technology is available – just look to the stars.