The space shuttle Atlantis launched today, marking an end to the 30 year reign of the space shuttle program. Perhaps I could go so far as to say the space program as a whole. I am livid about the state of our space program now, thanks to a President who is short sighted and apparently doesn’t have the spirit of exploration within him. Human beings have always sought to explore their surroundings, to try and understand how things work. Early in our existence we wondered, “What’s over that hill over there?” or “How far does this land go? What else is out there?” Now we find ourselves in a position of stagnation, exploration has withered and is almost gone. The next frontier is clearly space. People have been saying that for a long time now. Yet, we still refrain from pushing hard to explore it, to understand the mysteries there. I have always said one very mattter of factual statement and I will say it again and again: How long do you think this planet of ours will exist to sustain us? We cannot stay here. Its time is finite, our sun will one day swell into a red giant, consuming Mercury, Venus, Earth and even Mars. The inner planets of the solar system will reside inside our star as it slowly dies. Granted this isn’t expected to happen within the next few million years, but it will happen. We have the technology to beyond the confines of our planet, to explore other places in our solar system. We have had this technology for over 40 years now and yet we don’t use it. We cower behind budgets and monetary excuses. Do you think it was a free ride for Columbus to explore the new lands he discovered? Do you think it was cheap for the Wright Brothers to build their first airplane? How much do you think it cost to invent the first TB vaccines? In every aspect of discovery there is expenditure. You have to spend something to gain something in return.
We should also consider the fact that China is spending massive amounts of money on pushing their space program into high gear. They already have a completed core module for a space station. They are currently actively developing the technologies and components for missions to the moon. Meanwhile we Americans are sitting on our asses, drinking Coronas and complaining about spending money on space exploration. I think it’s ridiculous. So the Chinese will someday rule space? Is that something we want?
So in closing, I dread the thought of losing the space program. I believe we are all called to explore, investigate and expand our knowledge of the world, the universe, around us. Staying anchored to planet Earth is about as stupid as never leaving your house because it cost too much to drive to the mall or market. How long will we hide behind these excuses? Will we ever set foot on Mars? I hope so. Sadly, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. The longer we wait, the further we get from truly exploring beyond our solar system. Our ancestors would look up at the stars at night and wonder what they were, we need to go there. We need to reach for those stars!