Today while watching the last space shuttle launch of what will be the foreseeable future, I felt incredibly sad. As Atlantis safely “slipped the surly bonds” of earth to carry the last group of Astronauts into the stars, I felt as though I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. For my entire life NASA has given us hope and dreams! How many of us as children watched shuttles launch and brave men and women dare to dream and dare to explore? I feel incredibly sad and bereft knowing that my children might not get to have that same excitement, that same feeling that there is a huge universe out there, just waiting to be explored.
I know people argue about the cost of the program, however, the space program has cost less than many of our recent wars in both money and human lives. However, the benefits we as a society have received from the research alone far outweighs the cost. Moreover, in a time when people are desperate for hope, desperate to believe in something bigger than they are, and cynical about governments and corporations, isn’t the hope and feeling of awe that Space Exploration provides worth our time and our investment?
Space exploration will never be easy and the cost at times can be severe, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that space truly is our next frontier. There is so much of the universe that we do not know and cannot even begin to comprehend until we leave the confines of Earth and dare to touch the face of God in the stars. I truly believe that our future is waiting on us to dare to dream the dream that our fathers and grandfathers dreamed… to believe again that we can do more, reach farther and explore the unknown.
To quote Ronald Reagan after the Challenger tragedy,”We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers… We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.”
It is my sincere wish that our hopes and our journeys will continue. That we will again find the courage and conviction to not just gaze into the night sky, to be content only as observers, but to walk among the stars yet again.