The Space Shuttle Mission ended today, leaving me feeling sad and a bit bitter.
I am sad because I remember in elementary school, we were all funneled into the library to watch shuttle launches. I was always enthralled with the notion of space travel and I can remember how sweet I though the shuttle was compared to those stodgy old rockets. I also remember the horror of watching the Challenger disaster and the sick feeling I got when I learned of the fate of the Columbia. To beat a literary dead horse, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
My bitterness comes from a historical perspective. In the 60s dreams were big. My parents were children, and those who had survived the great wars were calling the shots. They had seen the heart of darkness and were reaching for the light. They were dreaming big and they were not afraid to shoot for the moon. They got there and as great and as groundbreaking as the Shuttle Mission was, its audacity does not even come close to that of the Gemini and Apollo missions. It wasn’t much of a step forward in many respects. Our leadership in the past couple of decades has failed to inspire us, lacking the Cold War pressure to win at any cost.
Still, I am grateful to have had the Shuttle Mission to give me something to be proud of and it is my sincerest hope that my generation can dream big enough to take us to the next level. NASA has been doing a great job exploring Mars with unmanned rovers, but I hope we can all come to the conclusion that the continued existence of our species may eventually rely upon our ability to leave our earthly home.