Saturday, June 09, 2007

Shuttle Launch

I watch the space shuttle Atlantis take off yesterday afternoon. A space launch is still on the most spectacular events there is. The massive nature of the event is coupled with the hope of discovery and adventure to symbolize what Fredrick Jackson Turner call the frontier theory of American history. He argued that the history of the country centered on identifying and overcoming frontiers. As Gene Rodenberry said, space is the final frontier. I can distinctly remember the first shuttle launch. I skipped school twice to watch it on television. Twice because the first launch was scrubbed and it was rescheduled for a couple of weeks later. Now we only notice the space program if there is a disaster like Challenger or Columbia. The space program is still great adventure and this country should have been investing in it significantly for the past two decades. Instead, our legislators sell their votes to donors and special interests like prostitutes and our future remains unfunded and unconsidered. The shuttle fleet is going to be retired in 2010 and there will not be a replacement until 2013 at the very earliest. Which means that US participation in the International Space Station and all the research that can only be conducted there will be dependent on Russian rockets. I do realize that the Cold War is over but this is pathetic. Tropical forests in Iowa and Bridges to Nowhere are obviously more important than making the scientific and engineering discoveries that will define technology in the next generation. The US Congress should be proud. I know I'm not.


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