Sunday, July 10, 2011

Where No Man Has Gone Before

I have to admit that I always thought that NASA would have a shuttle program. I took the launches for granted having grown up well after a man had walked on the moon. We sent up astronauts. On a regular basis. That is just what we did.

So yesterday feels a bit like an end of an era. With the last launch of a space shuttle for the foreseeable future, I feel a strange sense of loss. Like the future that Science Fiction writers have predicted for decades just won't be coming true. When SciFi writers in the 50s started writing about space travel it was because it was becoming a possibility. When writers talked about long distance space travel or space station living, it was because those things were on the horizon. In a way this end of the program, induced by budget cuts, feels like the end of those dreams. What will we shoot for now?

I know that budgets are finite. I know that cuts have to be made or taxes raised (I'm all for taxes by the way). What I wonder is why we make the cuts we do. I know that NASA's program seemed less immediately necessary. But I still can't help but lament the death of dreams. Will children still grow up wanting to be astronauts? Will we still look to the stars and hope to reach one? Will we ever find the cold still expanses of space? I know I'm being melodramatic. But space made me dream. I grew up on the words of Bradbury and Niven and Roddenberry. I grew up with dreams of new life and new civilizations. And today the universe feels a little more closed off.

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