NASA observes a solemn day of remembrance the last Thursday in January to remember the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia. That is well and proper, a fitting observance. Remembrance Day serves to remind us of the dangers and difficulties of space flight and our individual role in preventing future accidents.
It is also a day to remember what it means to be a hero. Remembrance Day inspires us to attempt the difficult and dangerous when the potential reward is important and worthwhile.
Those lessons should be remembered on the other 364 days of the year as well. Sometimes I get caught up in hectic daily busy-ness and forget; but never for very long. Ghosts of heroes departed pay regular visits at my house.
I never knew Gus Grissom or Ed White or Roger Chaffee; they died while I was still in grade school. I knew them only as heroes, seen from afar, on television or in magazines and newspapers.
But I worked with Dick Scobee, El Onizuka, and Judy Resnik. And I worked even more closely with Rick Husband and KC (Kalpana Chawla). These I knew well; trained together, struggled alongside, shared jokes together; they were my colleagues.
The others: Ron McNair, Mike Smith, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Willy McCool, Mike Anderson, Dave Brown, Laurel Clarke, Illan Ramon; I was in meetings, saw them in the halls, but can’t really say that I knew them well.
And I have other colleagues whose names are written on the Astronaut Memorial; they died on duty if not in space.
Biographies have been written of them, their stories have been told on television and movies. So nine, twenty six, or thirty five years later, what can we say about them that hasn’t already been said?
Just one question: what would they want today?
Do you think that they would be proud of their country which can no longer send humans into space? Do you think they would be proud of their space agency which has no coherent plan to continue with exploration? Do you think that they would be proud of their government which has fallen into bickering so badly that even the ½ of 1 percent of the federal budget that used to enable the future has been significantly reduced? Or do you think that they would be proud of a commercial sector that is long on PR and short on delivering new commercial spacecraft?
One of the candidates for the nation’s highest office offers an imaginative space initiative and the other candidates poke fun at it. I don’t know which is worse: offering a goal with no resources or belittling the idea of having goals at all. Personally I am disgusted with the whole process – and the polls tell me that I am far from alone. I wonder what Gus and Dick and Rick would have thought of that, too.
It is clearly presumptuous on my part to imagine what those heroes who made the supreme sacrifice would want. But they were all on record, before they died, giving voice to what they wanted. That record is one we can listen to, read, study, and evaluate.
Without exception, they were going into space because they thought it was worth the cost, worth the risk. They saw the future out there.
It is impossible to build a business plan on exploration of the unknown; some decisions aren’t amenable to the quarterly profit and loss statement. Seward’s folly, Jefferson’s gamble, Teddy’s canal – they were all the butt of jokes and sarcasm. Yet, America, the land of opportunity, was not built by skeptics. America was built by people who were willing to risk everything on a dimly perceived future. Facing the unknown frontier changed Americans and made us what we are. We would be a lesser people if our great-grandparents had not chosen those challenges. The cost was high and many did not live to see the results of their gamble. But as a nation we continued on and became great.
Now where is our frontier? Making corporate profits on Wall Street by moving money around? Now what will inspire our children? Playing video games that are made in overseas sweatshops?
You know better than that. Without the challenge of a frontier stagnation, mediocrity, and decline is our guaranteed future.
Dick and Rick and Gus and the others knew that what they were about was supremely important. Not because of the profit and loss; not because of the potential for near term gain; but because being on the frontier changes us. The challenge makes us better; it clarifies our values; it sets our sights on a better future. It illuminates what really is important.
It reveals heroes who inspire our children and grandchildren and will inspire their children to strive for greater things.
That is, I think, what Rick and Gus and Dick would want.
Thanks, Wayne, for reminding me why I’m doing what I do.
And sometimes, we get to be heroes even if no one ever knows it.
Thank you, Wayne. You do remind us that visionaries have always endured skeptics and tiny minds. But they have also prevailed, but as you remind us, not always in their lifetime.
Space is out there, and it will be explored. My fervent hope is, that it will be explored by us.
As of today, the only nation with a (five year) plan for space exploration is China. They are prepared to take the steps that the former USSR and the USA took 50 years ago. Today, both Russia and the USA have so much debt, and such a poor economy, that we can’t afford to maintain our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, and airports.
Unlike both the Russians and the USA in the 1960’s, the Chinese today are funding their space program with money mostly from the USA (US consumers buying millions of Chinese manufactured goods).
NASA’s budget has always been (after the success of Apollo 11) on the decline, while the Pentagon budget has skyrocketed. It seems we Americans have no problems spending billions (trillions) of dollars on wars, rather than spending the money on improving the human race. The low budget that was passed in 1972 for the development of the Space Shuttle led to design compromises that ultimately came back to bite us (Challenger & Columbia accidents). And after the Challenger accident we mothballed the west coast launch facility that cost $3 Billion to construct and became so risk adverse, that the shuttle wouldn’t be allowed to launch any more commercial satellites, thus giving Europe’s Ariane rocket to become the world’s most used rocket for launching commercial satellites in to space.
In 2004, President Bush announced his space policy of returning to the moon and then going on to Mars, but neither his administration or Congress satisfactorily funded the project which led us to developing a dead end $9 Billion Ares I rocket with all sorts of engineering problems like SRB thrust oscillation, and a second stage engine (the J2X) that could not launch a fully loaded Orion spacecraft that would be capable of traveling beyond low Earth orbit. And knowing this, the then NASA Administrator, Mike Griffin, continued to pursue an unsustainable project. NASA should have upon learning of the Ares I problems, dropped the project and started developing a different rocket, be it the DIRECT (Jupiter) rocket proposals, the Ares V or the now Congressionally mandated SLS rocket.
Today, as Mr. Hale states, the US space program is in shambles because of the political atmosphere in the Congress and in the White House. The problem with a Democracy is that every four, six or eight years, the space program is changed dramatically, some times for the better, but lately for the worse. China, (as the USSR did), will remain on a steady course, whereas the USA had dumped the Saturn V rocket with three left over and ready to launch vehicles. We started from scratch to build the Space Shuttle which was mainly designed to construct and service a space station, but for most of its time was waiting for the Congress to fund a space station. Then, after finally building one, we dumped the shuttle just after the space station construction was completed. We now have to depend on the Russians, Europeans and Japanese to supply and maintain the station, and depend totally on Russia to transport our own astronauts to the space station, which was mostly built with US tax payers dollars.
The Russians have never had a gap in their human space flight program (except for accidents), while the US had a six-year gap between Apollo and Shuttle, and today perhaps another six-year gap. The “winning of the Cold War” has made this country and our elected officials complacent and not willing to take the risks or spend adequate money on our space program, that ultimately made the US the most space capable and space experienced nation on the Earth. From now on, it looks like the Chinese will take over that position from both Russia and the USA.
God help us all.
Fred, I hope you don’t mind a couple of points, First, if memory serves, Ares I was never meant to be anything but LEO. All exploration missions would require the Ares V to bring supplies and a booster to go beyond LEO. Second, the Ares I-X mission proved the thrust oscillation was not as bad as calculated.
Regardless of whether the hardware for Constellation was the correct hardware, people going beyond LEO should be the aim.
Personally, I hate DIRECT and the SLS (the big booster should not be human rated). Having a small human rated launcher and a big dumb booster seems more economical to me. But that’s just my opinion.
“Fred, I hope you don’t mind a couple of points, First, if memory serves, Ares I was never meant to be anything but LEO.”
Yes, I understand that. But if I recall Ares I was to be capable of launching a full blown Orion spacecraft capable of going to the Moon (Mars). The Orion would meet up with and dock to the other elements brought up by the Ares V.
But as it turned out, the Ares I could NOT launch a fully BEO capable Orion. Lockheed Martin had to remove more and more BEO equipment in order to meet the less than desired lift capability of the Ares I because a J2X rocket engine was needed to be used as the second stage rocket motor, rather than the more powerful SSME (which wasn’t capable of an “air start,”) and because of the need to add extra hardware to dampen the SRB thrust oscillations. (At least that’s what I recall reading on NASASpaceFlight.com).
Two different vehicles is fine with me, but with the Ares I/Ares V design, there would be only one launch pad specifically designed for each; Pad 39B for Ares I and Pad 39A for Ares V. If either of these vehicles or some other element destroyed the launch pad, there would be no backup pad which we always had for Apollo and Shuttle.
I have a general rule that I don’t allow comments longer than the original blog post. You have been granted an exception this time. Please try to make your point succinctly in the future.
It seems to me like the primary reason we had Mercury/Gemini/Apollo was to make a political statement. (I think we can assume JFK didn’t really care that much about moon rocks).
The feasibiility of the shuttle was largely based on the Dept of Defense usage from the west coast facility. (I can source this if anyone wants, it’s a couple of volumes from a convention in Colorado in the 70’s on proposed purposes for the newly flown shuttle). If it were not for the promise of DOD payloads, the shuttle would have been very questionable long term. Then, it became a point of national pride, and so we flew it for decades dispite it’s safety and financial shortcomings.
Today, we have no such cause to ‘hitch our wagon to’. We are looking for politicians and the public to support an exploration program for the sake of exploration, and they are yawning.
China can just decide to do it, and off they go. They have talent, resources, and do not require anyone’s opinion or approval to do it.
Anyway, that’s how it looks from here. I am 50 years old, grew up near NASA Ames, and often spent my elementary school recesses watching launch coverage in the library media center. I watched most of the Shuttle media updates for the last 5 years of shuttle flight, and occasionally took days off to watch a launch on NASA-TV. That’s how I first heard Wayne, and gained immense respect for him and what he believes. I am sorry my view is so bleak for the future of the US in space. I really hope I am wrong.
I hope you are wrong too. I remain optimistic, though it is often with gritted teeth these days.
Democracy and freedom is better than a planned economy in an authoritarian state – even though sometimes they appear more efficient, they are not.
One memory of a quote stays with me but it was from an engineer leaving NASA after the ‘Apollo purge’ from budget cutbacks.
Memory doesn’t bring the quote back word for word but basically went ‘I can work on spaceships or warships.’ with the unspoken part that he preferred spaceships. The warships he explained were military aircraft.
But the Big Lie of American politics is that we cannot afford NASA. That’s it is either spaceships or warships or feeding children or supporting education, ect, ect. NASA is one of the great spark plugs of our economy. When it is starved of fuel ($$$), the economic engine isn’t running on all cylinders. That makes it more difficult to raise the money for everything. Just 1% of the TARP money (supposedly already paid back) each year would skyrocket NASA accomplishments (like fully fund CCDev plus robotic and crewed Exploration).
But that won’t happen. Maybe we can get Tom Hanks to host a telethon?
I would settle for NASA to increase by the amount of the bonuses that went to the Wall Street financial barons after the ’08 disaster year. Something is rotten there.
“It is clearly presumptuous on my part to imagine what those heroes who made the supreme sacrifice would want.”
Perhaps I was not clear; my conclusion was based on what they said during their lifetime; any other conclusion would be presumptuous.
I support Commercial Crew in principle but have now come to the conclusion that Commercial crew must now be scraped – by the time they are ready to fly on current projections it will be 2017 or later. SpaceX is years behind schedule (funny no one mentions that too often…and hasn’t yet even delivered laundry to the ISS let alone getting close to flying crew, the rest of them are many years away from even doing laundry flights) – the ISS is only funded until 2020, so at best they might only fly crew to ISS for a few years – maybe half a dozen flights assuming any of them are actually ready by 2017. Maybe hire China to fly crew to the ISS to provide some redundancy?
Use that (Commercial crew) funding instead to fast track the SLS and have it operational (ie crewed flights) by 2016 at least for LEO (requires no upper stage), fly a few years to ISS to test out its systems (once or twice a year) and then start BEO as planned by 2019 or 2021.
The current Administration and US Congress are trying to force NASA to do too much without enough money (nothing new here). Ultimately NASA and the Congress will have to decide what the priority is – Commercial Crew or BEO – it can’t do both unless there is more money injected into NASA’s human spaceflight budget (either new money or redirected from other parts of the NASA budget).
As I recall the Augustine report, any space program worthy of a great nation would cost something like $3 billion per year more than the “09 budget. Instead we are getting cuts. And I agree that there is money; it is a matter of priorities.
Well said, Wayne. Thanks.
I strongly support human exploration, however we all know there is a big debate going on the ROI aspect of the human flight vs robotic missions (or scientific missions). Since today’s discussion is about the funding human space program for 3B$ annually, NASA has 82B$ a year to spend. what do you think ?
NASA’s budget is only about $18B this year and shrinking. I don’t know where you got the $82B number. Robotics and human exploration go hand in hand; they don’t compete. One does not happen without the other.
After putting some thought to the question I realized that what the mentioned heroes would think of the current state of affairs would probably depend quite a bit on which crew it was.
Gus and his crew would be thrilled to hear that the nation met President Kennedy’s Moon challenge just two and a half years after their accident. But I believe that of the three crews they would be the most aghast and dismayed to find out what was accomplished, and especially what was not accomplished in the decades that followed. I can imagine Gus being told that Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the Moon and quipping “They’re letting septuagenarians do moonwalks nowadays?” and then watching his smile disappear when he is told that Cernan was 38 years old at the time.
Dick and his crew would probably be glad to find out that the Shuttle program was not immediately canceled after their accident. However they would probably be surprised to learn that their accident did not lead to a new and safer vehicle but that instead the Shuttle was flown for another 25 years because of the repeated failure of attempts to develop a replacement.
Rick and his crew would probably be glad to see that the program recovered enough from their accident to complete ISS and to service Hubble one last time. And they would surely be relieved to hear that each Shuttle mission after theirs was flown safely. However they would not be glad to hear that any U.S. astronaut going into space for the foreseeable future will be riding on a Soyuz.
I can only think of one common reaction from each of the three crews. I can hear them all saying in unison “What happened?”
I certainly do not agree with the thought that the highly capable shuttle should have been cancelled and replaced after Challenger. Not realistic and not necessary either. The system performed remarkably well since that time ( of course, there was the mishandled foam problem, but that is the nature of aerospace. )
I’m afraid you had a poor understanding of the risks involved, not to mention the extraordinary expense. We can do better.
You have, once again, provided a very much needed thought provoking piece. Those who sacrificed are looking at us as if we are idiots.
Figure out when our heroes went from people willing to risk the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of their goals to the sports star-de-jour or American Idol winner, and we just might be able to reverse the trend and start doing great things again.
Once again you’ve offered a sober and objective commentary on our space faring challenges. I knew Laurel Clarke. We once went to the same junior high school in Albuquerque. Two kids on similar trajectories, yet she made it to the heavens in more ways than one.
When I met Laurel again in New Mexico, some 27 years later, she struck me as a very self actualized mom, with nothing more on her mind than to return to her family once the trials and tribulations of her astronaut public appearance obligation was complete. As quickly as she won me over as my favorite astronaut, she was gone. Although I doubt she would have had much of an opinion of the inane political rancor going on today, I suspect she would be profoundly saddened that the country that so inspired her to pursue math, science, medicine and such incredible heights of accomplishment, has degraded its ambitions to such an extent. And she would be disappointed most of all that her kids don’t have national goals like the ones she and other kids like her distant junior high friend had to inspire them to excel.
I agree with you that it is disheartening to see how long it has taken for our space policy to finally be acknowledged as a political topic, and even more disheartening to see visionary goals being chastised as wasteful and comical. What will it take for us to think boldly again?
I watched, as a child, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, from the comfort of my living room. My parents would let me skip school to watch a launch. A whole generation grew up in the space age, knowing that the stars were our future. I was fourteen when Neal Armstrong stepped out on the lunar surface and uttered those famous words, “for all mankind”. I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut too.
By the time Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I had turned into an electronics geek. Eventually, I would go into the Air Force as a missile mechanic and went to college to study electronics for a career. I discovered computer programming and that would become my career path.
I worked for NASA, among other places because at that time, NASA was THE place to be.
But after resounding success of Apollo, things began to change. Part of it was just my growing up and the realization that we had been sold a false dream.
The dream, it seems, was not about the human spirit, or exploration, or any other noble purpose. It was just to beat the Russians. We were so terrified when Sputnik was launched that we turned over every rock in an effort to beat them at their own game. Thus the space race began. That it was a nation security priority was no secret. That it was SOLD as the future was just a means to an ends. The proof of this is what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union, NASA budget cuts got deeper and deeper until, here we are today, virtually no space program at all.
It took us ten years to go to the moon. Forty years later, we can’t even put a man in space without using Russian spacecraft.
Great empires think big. The Egyptians created pyramids, the Greeks science, The Romans, roads, Spain, England, France, Holland created global empires. We thought our destiny was the stars.
The stars are our future, it we don’t create it, someone else will. Ta=hat someone else will most likely be China. I wish it could be us but with so much infighting, it will never happen here. Better the Chinese than nobody. Perhaps they can scare us into another national security priority, before it’s too late.
“Now where is our frontier? Making corporate profits on Wall Street by moving money around? Now what will inspire our children? Playing video games that are made in overseas sweatshops?”
Agreed, Wayne, we need a new frontier. Space is one. (I’m a proponent of establishing a lunar base as a springboard to Mars.) The oceans are perhaps another. But that kind of rhetoric isn’t going to carry the day. American industry — just as it was during Apollo — has to be fully engaged or this mission will not succeed. Jabs at capitalism won’t earn you any capital!
Very nice thoughts. I also wonder what those we’ve lost would think of the types of statements being thrown about these days. Shocking that no one thinks we can keep children fed AND think about their future at the same time.
“Shocking that no one thinks we can keep children fed AND think about their future at the same time.”
Truly shocking. And I’ve been hearing that lame diatribe since the sixties. We need to nourish their minds just as well as their bodies.
I see the ritual of gravedigging for dollars is alive and well amongst NASA veterans. For fifty years, a trillion dollars and a handful of dead astronauts, all you can show for it is a few day trips to the moon and six people in lower Earth orbit. By all means, Wayne. Pat yourself on the back.
We welcome opinions off all varieties here. Listening to those who disagree with us is the most effective way to learn. Who knows, perhaps your coherent arguments and vivid language may win us over to your point of view.
What indeed have we accomplished? Just a few day trips to the moon and six people (sometimes less) in low Earth orbit. Not much to show for so many tax dollars and so many lives.
Didn’t realize I was patting myself on the back. I’ll be more careful not to do that in the future.
Hmmmmm… Just about what we’ve spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 10 years. Quite a few more dead and perhaps more questionable a foreign investment. But I don’t regret either expenditure… And I have no idea what you would think to be a better investment. We will remember and feel the impact of Apollo, the Shuttle, the International Space Station, and even the War on Terror 50 years from now. Is there a social program or “bridge to nowhere” you have in mind to keep people employed and cozy?
Sorry, Wayne…. Couldn’t resist. You are welcome to screen out my post if you think I am giving Mr. Cannady’s insensitive and ignorant opinion too much attention…
We said Dave. Pat yourself on the back.
The country that did Apollo no longer exists. There is a country that has the same name and occupies the same real estate, but its culture has changed so much over the past two generations that the Apollo 1 crew would barely recognize the place if they were to reappear in 2012. The more I reflect on Apollo, the more I realize that it was the result of an incredible alignment of several factors that is almost impossible to duplicate.
It’s a symptom of a wider cause. America seems to have lost confidence in itself. It reminds me of Britain in the late 1970s – the winter of discontent. When a nation believes it is capable of a mighty task, political and social divisions seem easier to compromise on because the different factions have at least one significant thing in common. Today that is missing, which makes for more bickering and backbiting.
Messaging is important. Airwaves and broadband filled with cynicism, self-important commentary designed to do little but convince the reader of how “witty” the author is, hyperbole-as-standard-response to human error and risk, and a political culture increasingly built on anything-but-accountability drives people to avoid acting and speaking out, for fear of ridicule.
Unfortunately this sometimes extends to those who believe in, act on and champion human goals not given to reductionism – to the dollar, or the political soundbite of the day. I know what Dave (Brown) would want – because he said it directly to several of us – that if anything happened on/to his flight, the important thing was that the U.S. continue to explore space. He charged us as guardians of that legacy and in a conversation with me hammered it home by referring to the alternative as “unthinkable.”
It’s important to remember that there are lot of folks who continue to take up that charge, and treat it seriously, no matter what – even when wondering why they persist. Thank you, Wayne, for your presence here, giving voice to those ideals. Messaging is important, and yours provides not just clarity and vision, but comfort.
“…America, the land of opportunity, was not built by skeptics. America was built by people who were willing to risk everything on a dimly perceived future. Facing the unknown frontier changed Americans and made us what we are.”
Well said, Wayne, well said.
Casting an eye to the past (even beyond the American past), sometimes a governmental body did the exploring and building, but by a far margin individuals accomplished these things. Today, as we stand at the edge of the “final frontier”, we have perverted those historical activities with governmental (and large corporate) bodies impeding, instead of enabling, exploring and building. How do we change this to be a more inherent activity?
This was truly an inspiring, thoughtful perspective. It’s too bad that more people in this great country can’t see the importance of human space flight.
There’s more to this “frontier” seeking than just the zest for exploration. There’s the tiny, barely perceptible ticking of the clock in the background as well. That ticking is the passing of the time the universe has granted us to get off our planet and move humanity to other places with new resources to be put to use. We either get out there before the clock runs out or we will devolve here.
So, how much time do we have? It’s hard to say and that’s why the political priorities are not on space.
Leaving out the things that we can do to ourselves, there are two certain events that will make future generations wish we had some self-sufficient humans living somewhere else. The less predictable would be a large in-falling rock that we can see, but we can’t stop. The more predictable would be the point where we can’t produce enough energy for our ever-growing human needs.
The money that we spend on pushing humanity out into space is not just to inspire us or to compete with other nations. The larger purpose of these expenditures is to buy insurance for humanity and our civilization as a whole.
I’m not so worried about the rock hitting us next week. There’s not much we can do about it when one comes our way. The real worry is that we will keep our focus on the issues of today for too long and then our great-great-great-grandkids will look back and curse us for not working on the bigger picture while there was still some time.
I think that Dick, Rick, Gus and the others might tell us that the risks and costs, both physical and fiscal, of going into space are nothing compared to the those of not going.
A nice article, but lets be honest NASA lost its way a while ago…..
Between the highly successful Apollo program and the Shuttle there was a long gap where no US space vehicles were active. NASA could not agree and stick with an idea of what to follow the shuttle with.
But my big complaint is that the first A in NASA is for Aeronautic, and the last time I heard about the budget breakdown the Aeronautics side was getting 6% of the budget. Now this is the stuff for you and me’s, the safer airliners, better jet engines, better aircraft, the things that can affect normal people’s lives. Since then there are very few projects at Dryden. Dreams of space are nice, and do inspire, but safer transport that keeps people alive to dream is just common sense.
The NASA decission making has been questionable for a while, they cancelled the X-38 Emergency Return From Orbit, as they thought it un-manly to return under parachute. Unmanly, hell you would be alive, what else matters. I am sure that given the option, that the Columbia crew would have taken the chute. Then there are the probes that failed due to mis-calculations. The female astronaut that drove accross America in adult diapers to try and kill her love rival.
To put it bluntly, NASA is not what it was….. The latest head, proudly stated that his number one priority under Obama was to promote space to the Muslim world. ERR, did they change the name from NASA to MASA, Muslim Aeronautic and Space Administration??? With all the errors in the programs, rocket scientists do not command the respect they once did. I mena how could so many miss that the calculations were wrong, it was done over many years, yet the data was not checked and triple checked??
It is sad that the US spent so much money putting a space station into oorbit, that the US cannot use without paying to get there like the space tourists that are using it was well. Russia is laughing at the way the US set up a great tourist attraction for them to make money from. But there was little foresight put in by the administration.
So where is the future of space, many people will openly support NASA, in all ways but wanting to actually pay for it. The Obama govt is interested in using the money allocated to NASA to increase welfare, welfare to people that not only fail to dream about lofty ideals like space, but will not even get off their backsides to get a job. With SO MANY people wanting to be kept, there is little money left over to use for the military, services, and NASA.
I see no problem at all with the wonderful airlines that fly by the many thousands everyday.
My problems with the airlines start with the TSA and continue through their marketing departments that add fees for almost everything and end with surly personnel. The airplanes are OK
I misspoke and I did NOT want to do that, sorry and thanks, I meant the airplanes, yes. That’s all I meant. I think the total experience itself is truly awful, it should not be, and it is not necessary that it is like that.
“What would Gus want?”
Well, from what I have read and heard of people have said about him, I would say Gus would want something he could ‘fly’, in the air or in space.
Not so long ago I made a journey from this corner of the world to that corner to see a shuttle launch. 2010. It was my own promise after Columbia. I camped outside at night and in the morning when the park opened again I went in and stood in front of the memorial and said my thanks. Then the launch came. No words for that. Thanks for being inspiring. Thanks for showing me how to turn dreams in to real things.
A biographer has said that Ray Bradbury was nostalgic for the future. Many of us who grew up dreaming of adventures in space, reading his work and that of Heinlein, Bester, Burroughs and countless others who took it for granted man the explorer (and woman the explorer, too, of course, Sally Ride) would push his explorations beyond our planet, are feeling that nostalgia now. We always understood that technology might fail us, that there might, in the end, be no ingenious wormhole/loophole around the limitations the laws of physics sought to impose upon us, no way to exceed the posted speed limit. But we never thought the obstacle that would bring our conquest of space to an earthbound halt would be budgetary cutbacks. Is mankind, then, not the daring adventurer we’d believed ourselves to be, or is it just that the visionary never controls the purse springs?