This morning the space shuttle Discovery launched into space and didn’t blow up. Of course the Columbia didn’t blow up until reentry so that doesn’t mean much. I have been a big fan of the space program since I was a little kid, but as I’ve grown older I’ve been more a fan of the concept of the space program than NASA itself.
I realize that since there are no terrorists in space there’s no real money being spent on the space program, but at some point they need to realize that going into space with a vehicle older than my car is a bad idea.
If we’re going to continue going into space we need to spend some serious time and money on it and not just fix up the old clunkers we still have in the garage. We need to actually start doing things again and I mean more than a quick stop at a space station, a handful of satellite launches and a couple of science experiments. Let’s actually become explorers again. We went to the moon almost forty years ago. You’d think by now we might have at the very least gone back or sent more than a radio-controlled car to Mars.
But instead we are still using outdated and dangerous technology and risking lives of astronauts for no real reason except to say we’re still sending people into space. It’s like being a cop and not wearing a bulletproof vest simply because you’ve never been shot.
There was a time when I wanted to be an astronaut, but now I just feel sorry for them. They’re no longer adventurers. They’re more the equivalent of daredevils, risking life and limb needlessly, but without the benefit of an audience that appreciates them. The sad thing is that when another shuttle explodes (and really it’s just a matter of time), there’s a good chance that those in power will just decide that space is too expensive and dangerous. When the truth is it’s where we’re supposed to go. We’ve climbed the tallest mountains and flown to the moon. Gene Roddenberry was right when he called it the Final Frontier. But as any climber will tell you, you’re only as good as your equipment.
I hope Discovery returns in twelve days with a picture-perfect mission, but like playing Russian Roulette, just because it didn’t go bang this time doesn’t mean it won’t next time.