I've been watching the movie "Apollo 13" this evening and I must admit it brought back many memories. When I was younger (back in the stone age of 1970) I remember being addicted to watching the news reports while the mission was unfolding. I remember being so worried and scared for those astronauts that, while it was happening, I couldn't think of anything else. Just a year before, on my 13th birthday, July 16th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin left Cape Kennedy to land on the Moon for the first time a few days later on the 20th, while Michael Collins orbited above.
Now I suppose that feeling may seem strange to the majority of people in America and in the world. There are far more many people who have been born since the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs that it really shouldn't be surprising that they have no real grasp of how special that era was and could be again. There are far fewer people who were raised with the idea of what we could do as a species and how far we could go and the colonies we could establish. The truth is, I feel terribly sorry for the young people of today.
Oh I suppose that it's easy to write my feelings off of that era as a kid building models of the spacecraft of the 60's (and I had every last one of the them), but it really does go beyond that. Now that I am in my 50's and I see the Shuttle program drawing to a close and I see no further efforts to retake the Moon and maybe really extend our reach to Mars, I am sad. I am not just sad to see the reach of mankind stunted, as much as I am sad to see that our government and many Americans have decided to tear that dream away from the young people who hunger for knowledge and science. The apparent abandonment of great dreams in our space program discourages young men and women into going into the sciences because the government does not present the same lofty goal as the young men and women who were draw into science by the original space program and that is a loss for all people.
The truth is that we do not just need the goals of going back to the Moon and eventually to Mars because mankind needs to reach out (though we certainly do), but rather that we need these goals as an inducement to get our young men and women interested in math and physics and biology and all of the other sciences necessary to make those dreams and missions possible. If we do not give our young people high targets to shoot at, then why should they prepare to try at all? Lofty goals, result in lofty achievements. Not the other way around.
So, tell me. Should we again reach for the Moon and stars or should we stay here? And why for either case? Do you think we should direct the energies of our young here on Earth or should we point them to the stars? Which gets the better results in your mind?
This is posted under politics, because these decisions are really political. These decisions require a political "gut check" that it seems even our own current President has failed at. These decisions require a vision that I wonder if any of our current politicians have. If the President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, really wants to write his name in the history books forever and ever, he'll funnel a huge amount of investment into the space program and then will reap the credit for all of the inventions and progress that such an investment will produce. If he does, his face will be carved on Mount Rushmore.