Friday, July 8, 2011

THE SPACE PROGRAM IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE SPACE PROGRAM

I remember when I was a child in the 70s. I had a bunch of toys: “Mego Super Hero”, “Micronauts” and “Star Wars” action figures (yes, action figures), to name a few. Yet there was one particular toy that particularly captured my imagination. It was a plastic space shuttle toy that I had gotten during a visit to Cape Canaveral.  Oh sure, the Millennium Falcon may have been the flashier and more popular ride, but the shuttle was special because it was a toy that represented the attainable, the achievable. It was real. It represented one of the pinnacles of human genius and imagination. It showed that the impossible could be made possible. After all, mine was the first generation that space travel was already a part of history, a given in reality. While I never wanted to be an astronaut, I thought that someday I would be sitting on a space ship headed for a trip to the moon or even Mars, or perhaps living in a space station (hey, I was 8).  But the “space race” has petered out and this day exemplifies that. As of this writing the Space Shuttle Atlantis is making its final voyage. An aptly named ship, I would imagine, for its type of transport mirrors that of the eponymous continent which disappeared into the midst of time and legend.   I vaguely remember seeing the news cast which rolled out the space shuttle “Enterprise”, with the actors from “Star Trek” in attendance (“Hey, where’s Captain Kirk?”). Decades later, the shuttle program comes to a close to become a footnote in history.

But the dream for space travel does not. Richard Branson and other entrepreneurs are working to make space travel possible. While the idea of privatization of a space program is troubling on many levels, one cannot obviate the fact that the desire for space travel does not die with the shuttle program. The human condition is one of growth and expansion, and the exploration of space is one of the ultimate representations of this condition (now, if the same could be done with the oceans)…

Today marks an end to a means of that dream, but not of the dream itself. Vehicles come and go. The thrill of the adventure is forever

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