Today we witness the end of an era. It shouldn’t be the end, but it is. This morning Space Shuttle Atlantis launched for the last time. Not only is it Atlantis’ last flight, but the last flight for any of the shuttles.
Once upon a time America was a country of hard working, self-sacrificing, dreamers whose eyes were set on the stars. In three decades we went from prop planes that could not break the speed of sound to landing on the moon. It may have been fear of the Red’s that spurred us on, but it was a glorious heyday for human innovation, exploration, and research. The race was launched by a basketball sized orb hurtled into the upper atmosphere by the Soviets and ended with the “one small step.” We may have been at war, but that did not keep us from reaching to the stars and dreaming of a brighter future. And when Columbia first lifted out eyes, the stars were within our grasp. When the Iron Curtain fell we worked with our once enemies and our faithful allies to create an International Space Station where we might strive together to better understand our world and reach out to the next one.
And now? Now we have nothing. Our future in space is in deep peril. There is no replacement for the Shuttle and the International Space Station only has a couple of years left. The dreams of millions who grew up looking to the stars in hope of journeying among them are shattered. For the past two decades we have dedicated less than 1% of our national budget to NASA. In case you didn’t know NASA isn’t just about Astronauts, it is our most important scientific institution responsible for thousands of patents for products that make our lives better. Look it up. And now? They want to cut more. We can spend 600 billion dollars plus on the military for two wars we don’t want, but we can’t spare 2 or 3 for NASA. This doesn’t reflect well on either our leadership or the people who keep them in their seats.
But… there is hope.
This is still a country by the people, of the people, and for the people. We are responsible for our future. It is our choice, mine and yours, what direction our country and our world goes in. Either we Choose to stand up and make a better future for the next generation or we let others choose it our future for us. We are not victims, we are Americans. Our forefathers made the hard choice over and over again to fight for a better future. This isn’t just about NASA, this is about getting our priorities straight, and being willing to make the hard choice and make sacrifices.
I choose the Moon. I always have, and I always will.